Phytochemicals are Information

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You’ve no doubt heard the quotation from Hippocrates, “food is medicine”.

Yes, food is medicine, but it’s also information. The concept of “food is information” comes from the famous professor of biochemistry, Dr Jeffrey Bland, who is considered by many to be the father of Functional Medicine. It’s this information and the positive influences it can have on your immune system that I want to explore and share with you today.

Put very simply, food sends information signals to your genes. Your cells are continually interacting with the food molecules that come into your body. Certain foods cause a beneficial effect, some are neutral, while others are negative.

So why do you care? I assume, because you want a healthy immune system right now. You want to know what you can do to create more resilience in your immune system.

To that end, I want to introduce you to the information passed onto your genes from phytochemicals. “Phyto” means “plant”, so “phytochemicals” means, “plant chemicals”. Some people call them phytonutrients, just to emphasise their importance. Plants make these chemicals to protect themselves from infection and damage. You could liken them to natural pesticides.

By consuming phytochemicals in our diet, science has shown they have beneficial effects on our health. They act as antioxidants, influence our immune cells and are anti-inflammatory. For example, the phytochemical in black pepper, Peperine, increases white blood cell count and antibody production. Curcumin in turmeric is anti-inflammatory. Allicin is the phytochemical in garlic that gives it its characteristic odour, antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Lycopene is the phytochemical in tomatoes (which by the way, is enhanced by cooking the tomatoes) that gives them their red colour, are particularly important for immune health. Research suggests that the phytochemicals in green vegetables ensure that white blood cells in the gut’s intestinal lining work properly. So please enjoy your rocket, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, Pak Choi, romaine lettuce, spinach, swiss chard and watercress.

Just be aware that there are many different phytochemical groups and many different chemical compounds within those groups, which can make this whole topic quite confusing. Here are some phytochemical groups that are known to benefit the immune system specifically:

  • Curcumin – Turmeric root and powder
  • Catechins – Green tea, black tea, Oolong tea, berries, cocoa
  • Carotenoids – Sweet potato, bell pepper, carrots, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables
  • Quercetin – Onions, apples, berries, broccoli, citrus,
  • Resveratrol – Grapes, berries, nuts, peanuts

Phytochemicals give plants their deep colours, so as a general rule of thumb, choose the ones with the deepest colour, like blueberries, cranberries, beetroot, sweet potato and ripe tomatoes. Choose every colour of the rainbow, purple, red, orange, yellow, green, tan and white and put two, three or more foods of each colour in your shopping trolley. When you consume these foods you’ll be feeding your beneficial gut bacteria with lots of natural fibre and in turn those bacteria help you extract the phytochemicals from the foods. Nature is so clever!

You’ll be pleased to hear that phytochemicals are anti-ageing too. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found a link between high polyphenol (a phytochemical group) consumption and a 30 percent decrease in mortality in elderly adults.

You’re no doubt thinking, that’s great, but how do I make this work for me? Well firstly you choose the rainbow of coloured fruits and vegetables when you go shopping; secondly you can have my immune-supporting recipe book here and thirdly, if you want personalised menu plans and recipes please contact me at dawn@newdawnhealth.co.uk

To your best health,

Dawn 🙂

References

Brindha, P., 2016. Role of phytochemicals as immunomodulatory agents: A review. International Journal of Green Pharmacy (IJGP)10(1).

Ding, S., Jiang, H. and Fang, J., 2018. Regulation of immune function by polyphenols. Journal of immunology research2018.https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jir/2018/1264074/

Li, Y., Innocentin, S., Withers, D.R., Roberts, N.A., Gallagher, A.R., Grigorieva, E.F., Wilhelm, C. and Veldhoen, M., 2011. Exogenous stimuli maintain intraepithelial lymphocytes via aryl hydrocarbon receptor activation. Cell147(3), pp.629-640.

Ying Li, Silvia Innocentin, David R. Withers, Natalie A. Roberts, Alec R. Gallagher, Elena F.

Zamora-Ros, R., Rabassa, M., Cherubini, A., Urpí-Sardà, M., Bandinelli, S., Ferrucci, L. and Andres-Lacueva, C., 2013. High concentrations of a urinary biomarker of polyphenol intake are associated with decreased mortality in older adults. The Journal of nutrition143(9), pp.1445-1450.

My “Red Juice”

This is my “energy giving juice,” as it comes from a selection of root vegetables and an apple. There are about 350 calories in it. Drink a small glass of it whenever you need a boost or crave something sweet.

My sweet treat!

My sweet treat!

I call it my red juice, for obvious reasons, but without the beetroot, it would be orange in colour. What I’m trying to do is consume as many of the colours of the rainbow each and every day, combining the vegetables as I like. This is a nice and easy guarantee of getting the range of nutrients we all need.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is your best bet for preventing every chronic disease. The evidence in support of this recommendation is so strong it has been endorsed by U.S. and U.K government health agencies and by virtually every major medical organisation, including the American Cancer Society. So don’t just take my word for it!

Here is a link to a TED lecture presented by an American physician who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She deteoriated to the point of living in a wheelchair, but later recovered her health by eating, as recommended, as rainbow of coloured whole foods and a paleo diet. Just click on it when you have 20 minutes.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc&feature=youtube_gdata_player

The substances which protect us against our diseases found in these fruits and vegetables, are phytochemicals. They include pigments such as carotenes, chlorophyll and flavonoids, also dietary fibre, enzymes and vitamin-like compounds. If you can consume these foods raw, you will preserve the enzymes (so helpful for easy digestion and maximum absorption), that’s why people have taken to juicing.

Carotenes act as anti-oxidants and enhance our immune systems. Flanonoids act as anti-oxidants, have anti-tumor effects and also enhance our immune systems. Limonoids enhance detoxification and block carcinogens. Chlorophyll may stimulate haemoglobin and red blood cell production.

Here are a few examples of foods in each colour category:

Red – Beetroot, tomatoes, red pepper, strawberries, raspberries, red currents, cherries, red grapefruit, watermelon.

Yellow – Yellow pepper, lemons, banana, pears, melons, apples, yellow grapefruit.

Orange – Papaya, mango, orange pepper, carrots, Sharon Fruit, pumpkin, squash, oranges, apricots, sweet potato, yams,

Green – All green veggies & leaves, kiwi, avocado, limes…the list is endless.

Blue/Black – Blackberries, blue berries, purple cabbage, plums, aubergines, red cabbage.

Anyway, back to the method. Wash thoroughly and juice 2 carrots, 1 beetroot, half a sweet potato, a lemon or a lime, a chunk of ginger (size to your liking) and an apple if you want extra sweetness. That’s it. Drink in small amounts as you need to.

I did look to do a mineral analysis on this juice, but the mineral content didn’t look that impressive. The vitamin values, however, were more significant. For example, this juice will provide you with well over the Vitamin A you need for a day. Also, least 50 % of Vit. C, 70% of B6, 50% of folate, 50% of B5, 25% of manganese we need each day.

Beetroots are an excellent source of folic acid, fibre, manganese and potassium. They significantly help the liver in it’s detoxification functions. The pigment betacyanin gives it it’s vibrant colour and is a powerful anti-cancer fighting agent. Beetroot fibre (not found in the juice of course) has a good effect on bowel function and cholesterol levels. It raises the levels of anti-oxidants enzymes, specifically, gluthathione peroxidase and glutathione S-transferase, as well as increasing the number of white blood cells responsible for detecting and eliminating abnormal cells. In a study of patients with stomach cancer, beet juice was found to be a potent inhibitor of the formation of nitrosamines (cancer-causing compounds ingested as nitrates when we eat smoked or cured meats (look on the labels of processed meats, they all have nitrates and nitrites added as preservatives). Beetroot also inhibit cell mutations caused by theses nitrates.

Carrots provide the highest source of pro-vitamin A carotenes. Two carrots provide roughly four times the RDA of Vitamin A. They also provide excellent levels of Vitamin K, biotin, Vitamin C, B6, B1 and potassium. They are high in anti-oxidants. They contain beta-carotene which we all know helps our night vision and similarly provide protection against macular degeneration and the development of senile cataracts.

Sweet potato’s contain a unique storage protein with very high anti-oxidant properties. Generally, the darker the flesh, the more caroteines they contain. The help to stabilise blood sugars and improve the body’s response to insulin and and are hence called “anti-diabetic”. They are high in Vitamin C, Vit A, B6 manganese, copper. biotin, B5, B2 and fibre.