Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The good things that we find in plant foods

Scientists say it’s the the full range of vitamins and trace elements, but also carotenoids - lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin; flavonoids - anthocyanidins, flavanols, catechins, epicatechins, procyanidins, flavanones, flavonols, proanthocyanidins; isothiocyanates - sulforaphane; phenols, sulfides, thiols, chlorophyll, luteolin, punicalagin, the list of hard-to-pronounce compounds goes on...

Now Professor Jeffrey Blumberg, Director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Centre on Aging at Tufts University is calling for some kind of intake recommendations to be established. He says that if we can do it for vitamin C, then we need to be able to do it for this vast class of compounds which are currently lumped under the generic term "antioxidants". But this terminology indicates one single mode of action when in fact we are referring to thousands of different chemicals,  with vastly different chemical structures.  

Of course what the researchers are discovering is making their job harder rather than easier, with no identified specificity for individual compounds. Rather each acts on the whole human health platform, and I’ll suggest they act on different pathways in different people too. I reckon some can substitute for others, in fact if the pathways can all be elucidated, I'd be very surprised. I also question whether taking them apart and analysing each individual component really serves any purpose. I guess it will keep the researchers in business for a few more years...

Historically we looked at things rather differently, learning that form equals function with a sliced carrot resembling the human eye - pupil, iris and radiating lines - with carrots greatly enhancing the function of the eyes. Grapes form a cluster in the shape of a heart and each grape looks like a blood cell with research confirming that grapes are also profound heart and blood-vitalizing foods and so it continues through celery (bones), walnuts (brain), kidney beans (kidney), eggplant, avocados, pears (cervix and uterus) and figs (sperm health).

Then at the most fundamental level, we’re reminded to think red, yellow, orange, deep green, leafy, purple - and choose colors from the rainbow every day! Mum told us to eat up our vegies, or at least my generation of mothers did and they sure knew what they were talking about! Now the researchers (bless them for reminding us) confirm how truly miraculous vegetables are in what they provide. If you want kids to eat their vegies, get them started on growing their own, then enlist their help in the kitchen. 

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