The foods in this program are recommended because of the phytonutrients they contain. Readers will find it useful to understand the type and function of these compounds and how they protect the body
The most important fact to appreciate is amount of oxygen consumed during exercise. Metabolic sytstems increase one thousand fold when under this stress. During oxygen utilization, free radicals are generated in huge numbers.
Free radicals are very reactive compounds.When they are overproduced, they lead to premature wear and tear of tissues and metabolic dysfunction.
Free radical attack uses a wide and varied set of agents to attack and alter cell structures thereby inducing a number of molecular alterations to cell components.
The phospholipids of the membranes are especially vulnerable to oxidation threats and are the prime target for these cytotoxic attacks. Lipid peroxidation is thus the main mechanism responsible for the structural and functional changes that occur in cell membranes after they have been attacked by free radicals. This is called oxidative stress.
To counter the increasing production of free radicals and other agents of oxidative damage, a wide assortment of antioxidants are needed. Fortunately, colorful vegetables, legumes and mushrooms and the herbs, spices and oils used to flavor and prepare them, contain potent antioxidants that serve that purpose. As do the pigmented compounds embedded in the skin of fruits like grapes and berries.
We are fortunate that nature has showered the earth with a plethora of plants, which contain a library of antioxidants. In addition to protecting the plant from the sun, these antioxidants offer protection to humans. When they are present in sufficient amounts, they protect us from the harmful effects that oxidative damage causes to cells.
Some antioxidants act primarily in the aqueous portion of the blood stream, others within particles of lipoprotein in the blood, others on cell membranes and still others within the cell’s cytoplasm and nuclei.
Doctors routinely only recommend the minimal combination of vitamins E and C together with beta-carotene and the trace mineral selenium. This program goes much further and recommends, in addition to the aforementioned nutrients, a library of pigmented compounds, which are contained in the colorful plants of the diet.
Term library pertains is intended to reflect the vast array of minute alteratrions from the predominant active agent. These phytonutrients or botanical antioxidants are found embedded in the fibers of foods. High in preventive compounds are the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, arugula, cabbage and cauliflower), and pigmented fruit (grapes, tomatoes and berries) as well as the aromatic and flavorful herbs (garlic, turmeric and onions) used to flavor meals.
These foods are all highly recommended because they contain the library or universe of phytonutrients. These include the carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenols. Their role in health is to neutralize the activity of free radicals and limit the damage they cause.
Botanical antioxidants are divided into chemical groups based on their chemical structures. Suffice to say they are all extremely useful to the body and help protect it from the chronic diseases caused by free radical attack.
The universe of compounds found in plants provide humans with the tools needed to extend life and prevent disease. Unlocking their secrets is an exercise that has been the subject of for healers and pharmaceutical researchers.
In addition to the antioxidants described above, foods contain other types of phytonutrients and provide benefits far beyond the nutrients they contain.
Phytosterols are substances that structurally resemble human steroids. Phytoestrogens for example, denotes compounds that mimic the activity of human estrogen.
This biological activity is based on their resemeblance to a steroid and their ability to access the nucleus of cells. They also have an ability to bind to membrane receptors and either mimic or block the activity of the natural steroid.
The olive is the fruit of a plant and contains a treasure trove of health enhancing compounds. In fact, the oil from the olive may be responsible for the lower incidence of coronary heart disease experienced by the Mediterranean populations. This is due to the olive’s high monounsaturated fatty acid content.
It is theorized that the oleic acid rich low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are more resistant to oxidative forces than other LDL species. It is further theorized that antioxidant vitamins present in olive oil prevent LDL oxidation from occurring.
The antioxidant potential, previously considered as the “non-essential components of olives”, may in fact contribute to the protective and health promoting action of olive oil. Olive polyphenols (3, -dihydroxy phenyl ethanol, hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol) may also play a crucial role in health. Olives also contain compounds that are part of nature’s arsenal of antioxidants.
Other foods contain beneficial compounds whose role in health is only now becoming appreciated.
Glucosinolates for example, are naturally occurring chemicals found in cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, sprouts kale and mustard seeds). The term glucosinolates refer to more than one hundred sulfur-containing compounds (glycosides). Upon hydrolysis, (addition of water) these glycosides yield isothiocyanates, thiocyanates, and indoles. Thiocyanates and isothiocyanates block tumor production. Isothiocyanates have been shown to inhibit tumor growth in a variety of body sites. Presumably, this occurs due to an inhibition of the binding of carcinogen (active agent) to the DNA in the target cell. Several of these vegetables including the hundreds of varieties of cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts and other members of the genus Brassica are now considered cancer-preventive foods. Cauliflower, kale and turnips also contain high concentrations of isothiocyanates.
Cabbage was originally used as a medicinal herb when it was first cultivated in Western Europe 3000 years ago and was a staple for the workers building the Great Wall.
These foods are covered in Green Foods
Allyl compounds, found in plants of the genus Allium, are believed to help prevent disease and increase the longevity of life. Foods in this group include garlic, onions, leeks and chives. Foods that have been known over the centuries to ward off insects and bacteria. This in addition to the flavor and aroma they add to meals.
We now know that the reason they effective in warding off disease and why they stimulate appetite is due to the phytonutrients they contain, which are covered in great detail in the section on White Foods.
Carotenoids are the primary pigments found in red, yellow and orange colored plants (fruits and vegetables). They are synthesized by plants in the chromoplast, an organelle different from the chloroplast, which synthesizes chlorophyll.
Carotenoids are lipid-soluble antioxidants that are involved in the normal maintenance of mucus membranes in the eye.
Beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein are the most important of the carotenoids and in addition to supporting the eye, they are also believed to prevent cancer and delay the process of aging.
Consuming foods rich in carotenoids can lower the risk of colon and bladder cancer.
Carotenoids are found in apricots, carrots, mangoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and of course tomatoes. There are hundreds of carotenoids in the plant world with two major divisions. Carotenes and xanthophylls Xanthophylls contain molecular oxygen whereas carotenes do not.
Carotenoids range in color from pale yellow to bright red. Their actual color is based on its chemical structure and which waves are reflected and absorbed.
Xanthophylls because of the presence of molecular oxygen are often yellow Lutein is classified as an xanthophyll.
Lycopene and beta-carotene, lack molecular oxygen in its structure and are therefore carotenes. They are orange to red in color.
Beta-carotene is the best-known carotene due to its importance as a vitamin A precursor. There are over 600 carotenoid pigments documented and over 50 that can be metabolized to active vitamin A. Another one of Nature’s libraries.
Lycopene is a carotenoid and is the principal pigment found in bright red fruits (tomatoes), spices (paprika) and pink grapefruit. Structurally, lycopene resembles but is a much more powerful antioxidant than beta-carotene. Lycopene however lacks vitamin A activity.
Lycopene is considered cancer-preventive. Once lycopene enters the blood it preferentially targets the prostate gland, lungs and eye. Its antioxidant activity is thought to prevent prostate cancer.
Lutein is another carotenoid found in pigmented plants. Dark green, leafy vegetables contain a high concentration of this pigment. Lutein is important for eyesight and is preferentially deposited in the macula and the rods of the retina.
Lutein is a yellow pigment that absorbs blue light and prevents excessive oxidative damage to the eye.
Beta-carotene is a precursor of the active form of vitamin A and prevents lipid peroxidation. Beta-carotene lacks the toxicity associated with vitamin A.
Beta-carotene is an excellent quencher of singlet oxygen free radicals and is primarily carried in the blood by LDL. Beta-carotene is believed to be a safe supplement and certainly supplements containing 10-12 mg are completely safe. Nevertheless, there have been reports that high doses of beta-carotene among smokers increased their incidence of contracting lung cancer.
The most significant group of biologically active botanical molecules are the flavonoids.
The flavonoids are a series of molecules that are widely distributed among various plant species. Over 2000 individual chemicals have been isolated, investigated and tested. Flavonoids as a group are potent antioxidants with specific ones also capable of inhibiting the metabolism of certain carcinogens.
Flavonoids are more pharmacologically diverse and more powerful than carotenoids. Catechins for example, which are found in green tea, are a specific type of flavonoid. Catechins are biologically very active and are classified as polyphenols based on the presence of a phenol ring in its chemical structure.
Flavonoids found in bilberry, black currant and grapes are called anthocyanosides and proanthocyanidins. These flavonoids provide significant collagen-stabilizing activity.
Collagen provides tensile strength to eye tissues. Reinforced cross-linkage strengthens collagen. This strength combined with the free radical suppression, and inhibition of histamine and prostaglandin secretion that flavonoids produce, improves the health of the tissue.
This explains the mechanism of anthocyanidins and why prolonged use of these foods is advantageous to muscles, ligaments and bones. Anthocyanidins are also believed to improve blood glucose and insulin levels, two factors important to diabetics.
Flavonoids are grouped into the following types.
1. Flavones (tangeretin and nobiletin) are found in citrus fruits and are believed to modify cytochrome P450 enzymes and inhibit the invasiveness of certain tumors.
2. Flavonols (quercetin and kaempferol) are found in cereal grains and vegetables are potent inhibitors of P450 reactions. Quercetin has been shown to inhibit the lipoxygenase pathway of arachidonic acid metabolism, while producing a lesser inhibitory effect on the cyclooxygenase system.
3. Polyphenols (catechins) are found in green tea. They have been reported to inhibit the formation of nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are formed when nitrites, used in the curing of ham and bacon, combine with amino acids. Nitrosamines are known carcinogens.
4. Flavonones (naringin) are found in high concentration in grapefruit and are anti-carcinogenic.
5. Isoflavones, found in soybeans, are considered cancer protective foods. Isoflavones are hormone-like compounds with weak estrogenic and antioxidant activity. Genistein, isolated from soybeans, inhibits numerous enzyme systems and retards the blood supply to cancer cells.
6. Stilbenes are flavonoid-like compounds synthesized by grapes and berries and thought to repress cancer growth.
One of the most important compounds found in plants are the polyphenols. Polyphenols were once designated as Vitamin P because of its importance to good health.
These compounds are all characterized by the presence of more than one, aromatic compound called a phenol group. Polyphenols are predominant in the skin of fruits. They are found in berries, tea, grapes, olives, cocoa and walnuts.
Polyphenols are divided into tannins and flavonoids.
Catechins (Green Teal Polyphenols)
Green tea is unfermented tea. It contains polyphenols that are very strong antioxidants. One type of green tea polyphenol (catechins) help prevent cancers of the gastrointestinal tract and crosses the blood-brain barrier to neutralize free radicals.
Polyphenols are very powerful antioxidants. In fact, the anti-atherogenic effect of green tea may be due to its preventing the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol (lousy cholesterol) and preventing its conversion into the truly lousy form of cholesterol.
Green tea catechins are also inhibitors of tyrosine kinase, the enzyme that phosphorylates proteins, which is essential for cell mitosis. This is believed to be the mechanism by which catechins prevent cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.
Grape Antioxidants (Reservatrol)
The polyphenol found in wine is the antioxidant known as reservatrol (resorcinol). It is synthesized by the plant and stored in the skin of the red grape. Reservatrol is at least partially responsible, for the “French Paradox”. The observation that the incidence of coronary heart disease is relatively low among the French despite their high intake of saturated fat.
Chocolate and Cocoa have long been thought of as a pleasure food and aphrodisiac. In addition to its high calorie content, which becomes even higher with the commercial addition of sugar and fat, this food contains many phytonutrients.
The presence of polyphenols in dark or unprocessed Chocolate may provide healthy, beneficial effects. One such polyphenol is epicatechin.
Epicatechins are powerful antioxidants that specifically protects LDL-cholesterol from oxidation. LDL-cholesterol is the lousy form of cholesterol and by preventing its oxidation into a horrific form, atherosclerosis or the blockage of blood vessels may be prevented.