Special Nutrients II (Phytochemicals/Phytonutrients)

Bioflavonoids, Bromelain, Chlorella, Chlorophyll, Cinnamon, Curcumin, Cruciferous Vegetables, Fiber, Garlic, Lignans, Phytosterols, Pomegranate, Quercetin, Resveratrol, Rose Hips, Rutin, Functional Foods & BAP for Health

In addition to the dietary macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats and water) and the more commonly recognized micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), other substances present in certain plant foods, classified as phytochemicals or phytonutrients (phyto = plant), have varying degrees of importance in human nutrition and are thought to work in a synergistic fashion with the other nutrients, and include:

Bioflavonoids – The large family (4,000+) of plant pigments (polypherol compounds) that are mostly responsible for the color of fruits, flowers, vegetables, beans, seeds and certain grains that are known collectively as bioflavonoids (or flavonoids), such as anthocyanidins (in berries, grapes and red wine), flavanol catechins (in tea, chocolate, grapes, berries and apples), flavanones (in citrus fruit), flavonols (in onions, broccoli, apples, berries and tea), flavones (in parsley, thyme, celery and hot peppers), and isoflavones (in legumes, i.e., beans, lentils, peanuts, peas and especially soybeans), all of which may have cell-signaling properties (communication between cells), antioxidant properties, and may help support cardiovascular health.  Pomegranate is an especially rich source of bioflavonoids and other phytochemicals that are thought to support normal heart health and function.

Bromelain – Bromelain is an enzyme derived from the stems of pineapples that helps digest protein when taken with food.  However, bromelain has another side.  When taken without food (that is, with plain water on an otherwise empty stomach), bromelain is thought to have natural antihistamine properties and as such is believed to help support the normal function of the respiratory tract which may be useful as an adjunct for certain chronic respiratory conditions (but not for acute attacks or dysfunction), some seasonal respiratory conditions, and exposure to certain environmental irritants.  In that regard, bromelain has demonstrated a strong synergy with the phytochemical quercetin, the essential mineral magnesium, and vitamin C to help support the normal function of the respiratory tract.

Chlorella – The nutrient-dense, water-grown, green algae that is the richest known source of chlorophyll – and as a result is an especially rich source of the essential mineral magnesium (in addition to the other nutrients it contains).  When dried, chlorella is about 45% to 60% protein, about 10% minerals, about 5% fiber, and contains small amounts of various vitamins and a broad array of phytochemicals that reportedly may help support normal cellular and cardiovascular function, help support the normal function of the immune system, and is thought may have an immunostimulatory effect that supports the enhancement of natural killer cell activity (Reference: Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:53, doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-53).  Chlorella is thought to help support the inhibition of the formation of abnormal cells and their growth (thought to be by inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme that leads to inflammation), help support and strengthen the immune system that may help inhibit viral replication, help encourage the production of proteins that help regulate normal cell function, and help support the normal health and function of the cardiovascular system.  Chlorella appears to: (1) Have anti-thrombotic effects that may help improve blood flow and possibly reduce platelet aggregation (clumping); (2) Reduce blood levels of phospholipase A2 (PLA2), an enzyme that stimulates release of arachidonic acid (AA) from cell membranes as part of the cytokine inflammation cascade involved in dystrophic calcification (calcium deposits in soft tissues) of the cardiovascular system as well as other inflammatory conditions; and (3) Is believed to be involved in and help support the regulation of calcium metabolism (Reference: International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, Dec. 23, 2008).  Unfortunately, its use tends to produce a dark stool that could visually hide possible blood in the stool (which is a warning sign that should by medically evaluated).

Chlorophyll – Chlorophyll is a green plant pigment.  Chlorophyll is the primary photoreceptor pigment of green plants and algae that absorbs energy from the sun (via photosynthesis) and converts it into useable carbohydrate food energy.  Chlorophyll is a natural chelate.  That is, it is an organic substance that is naturally bound with an inorganic mineral – and that mineral is magnesium – with magnesium being the central atom that holds the chlorophyll molecule together.  Foods that contain the most chlorophyll are the darker green plant foods, such as spinach (contains 300-600 mg of chlorophyll per ounce, which is about half a cup of raw spinach) and the seaweed kelp, with lighter green foods (such as iceberg lettuce) containing less chlorophyll.  If it is a plant food and it is green, then it contains chlorophyll.  And, if it contains chlorophyll, then it also contains the essential mineral magnesium.  It is thought that chlorophyll helps support normal GI tract function, and may help bind certain abnormal cell formation and growth substances in the intestinal tract, interfere with their absorption, and promote their elimination.  Chlorophyll is also thought to help boost the normal function of the immune system.

Cinnamon - Cinnamon is a spice that is harvested from the inner bark of the branches of a tropical evergreen tree that is native to India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, where it is widely cultivated by drying the bark and grinding it into the familiar spice.  Cinnamon is thought to help support normal brain function and mental cognition, help support normal blood glucose utilization, help support normal GI tract function, is believed to help support normal blood flow and normal cardiovascular function, and is thought may have antioxidant, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.  The active components of cinnamon are thought to be polyphenol polymers and its volatile oil content.  However, cinnamon extract in supplement form may adversely affect the liver if high doses are consumed frequently or for a long period of time because of its concentrated volatile oil content.  It is thought that a water-soluble cinnamon extract that has had the volatile oil removed, but has retained the polyphenol polymers, may not affect the liver in the same negative way. 

Cruciferous Vegetables – Cruciferous vegetables (aka “crucifers”), especially broccoli, are believed to help support normal cellular function and influence genetic expression to help inhibit abnormal cell development and proliferation, and is believed to do so by at least two mechanisms: (1) By inhibiting the action of an enzyme known as “histone deacetylase” (HDAC); and (2) By HDAC inhibitors working synergistically with DNA methylation, which together are believed to help support normal balance and cellular function.  The sulfur-containing compounds glucosinolates found in cruciferous vegetables (bok choi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, turnips and watercress), which contain isothiocyanate compounds that are thought to be associated with a lower risk of certain types of abnormal cell growth (but which may also be influenced by genetics and/or hormones), are thought to specifically help inhibit abnormal breast cell growth with an isothiocyanate compound known as sulforaphane.  The greatest concentration of sulforaphane is naturally found in broccoli.  The sulforaphane in broccoli is also thought to help lower the risk of abnormal cell growth of the stomach.  A recent Japanese study found that the daily consumption of only two and a half ounces (70 grams) of fresh broccoli significantly reduced the number of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria, which is believed to be a causative factor in peptic ulcers and gastritis and is suspected to be responsible for abnormal gastric cell growth.  It is thought that H. pylori and sodium chloride (salt) combine to enhance inflammation of the mucus membrane of the stomach, while the sulforaphane in broccoli appears to inhibit this inflammation.  The researchers concluded: “The findings in this study strongly suggest that sulforaphane has promise both as an antibacterial agent directed against H. pylori and as a dietary preventive agent against development of human gastric cancer.” (Reference: Cancer Prevention Research, April 2009, Vol. 2, No. 4, pages 353-360).  Besides fresh broccoli (the preferred source), sulforaphane is also available in supplement form.

Curcumin – Curcumin is the yellow spice ingredient in turmeric.  It is thought that curcumin may help support normal mental function and cognition (especially when taken with vitamin D3 which is thought to boost its effectiveness), may help support the normal function of the GI tract (but has been known to cause loose stools), may help support the normal utilization of blood glucose, and is thought may possess antioxidant properties.  It is thought that curcumin may help support the normal function of the nerves and blood vessels in the extremities, especially the lower extremities in those with blood glucose problems.  It is also thought that curcumin may have prophylactic properties that may help reduce the expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokines CXCL1 and CXCL2 in those at risk for conditions known to affect the prostate and also the breasts (Reference: “Curcumin Inhibits Prostate Cancer Metastasis in vivo by Targeting the Inflammatory Cytokines CXCL1 and -2″ Beatrice E. Bachmeier et al., Carcinogenesis, Oct. 2012).  Curcumin should not be taken by those who have or are susceptible to forming gallstones.  Curcumin is extracted from the ginger family turmeric root and is used as a cooking spice, and is also available in supplement form.

Dietary Fiber – Dietary fiber is a type of complex carb that is a combination of partially digestible soluble fiber (such as gums and mucilages) and indigestible insoluble fiber (such as cellulose, lignin and pectin), and is found exclusively in plant foods because it is what forms the structure of plants and plant cell walls.  Soluble fiber, so-called because it undergoes metabolic processing by the body via fermentation that yields beneficial end-products, is predominant in such food as apples, carrots, and legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, peas and soybeans).  Insoluble fiber, so-called because it passes through the body essentially unchanged but nonetheless is beneficial as a result of it being hydrophilic (i.e., attracts and holds water in the GI tract, which increases intestinal bulk, softens the stool, and shortens stool transit time), is thought to help prevent toxin buildup in the intestinal tract, and is predominant in such food as whole grains, bran, flax, celery, green beans, potato skins and tomato peel.  Refined plant foods and simple carbs contain little or no fiber.  Dietary fiber is a complex carb that is in plant parts (fruit and vegetable skin, pulp, leaves, stems, roots, husks and seeds), and especially in whole grains, bran, and dietary supplement products – with psyllium fiber believed to be especially beneficial for the support and normal function of the GI tract and cardiovascular system.  Foods that contain fiber generally have variable amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber.  Dietary fiber supports health, especially heart and colon health (is thought may help reduce the risk of the development of certain types of abnormal cell growth in the colon), and is needed by the body to support proper food movement through the intestinal tract and support its normal function (known as peristalsis). 

Garlic – A plant bulb used as a pungent flavoring agent.  Garlic may inhibit blood platelet aggregation or stickiness, may have a blood purifying effect by helping support the killing of various microbes in the bloodstream, and may afford a degree of protection from gastric and colorectal abnormal cell growth.  Garlic is thought to be useful against certain seasonal conditions when used in conjunction with the immune system boosters vitamin C and the mineral zinc.  Aged garlic extract (AGE), taken together with Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), is believed to strongly support the normal function of the vascular system.  In a recent study (conducted by the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, Harbor UCLA Medical Center), they found: “The combination of AGE and CoQ10 was independently associated with significant beneficial effects on vascular elasticity and endothelial function.”  (Reference: Nutrition, Aug. 1, 2012.) 

Lignans – Plant parts (polyphenol compounds) known as lignans (found in certain seeds, such as flaxseeds and sesame seeds, and in certain vegetables and fruits) are converted in the body to phytoestrogens (but have a much weaker activity than estrogen produced by the body) which are thought may help block the effects of estrogen produced in the body, and in so doing may help reduce the risk of hormone-associated abnormal cell growth (that may affect the breasts, uterus, ovaries, and prostate).

Phytosterols – Plant fat-like lipids (found in whole grains, wheat germ, nuts and seeds, peanuts, and unrefined vegetables oils such as sesame, canola and olive oil) known as phytosterols is thought may help inhibit the intestinal absorption of dietary cholesterol, may help support the normal function of the prostate (with the use of the phytosterol known as beta-sitosterol), and may help decrease the risk of some forms of abnormal cell growth.

Pomegranate – Polyphenol-rich pomegranate has been found to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (substances secreted by lymph cells as part of the inflammation cascade).  Pomegranate is also a rich source of antioxidants, such as ellagitannin compounds (the same mouth-puckering astringent category of tannin compounds found in red raspberries, apples and tea), with one of the main ellagitannin compounds known as punicalagins accounting for about half the antioxidant activity.  Recent research suggests that the naturally occurring polyphenols in pomegranate are especially heart healthy, and are also thought may support the inhibiting of abnormal cell growth.  It has been found that it is the whole fruit and whole fruit juice (or whole fruit extract) that is effective, not the poorly absorbed ellagitannin (ellagic acid) sometimes isolated as a supplement.  (Reference: Journal of Inflammation, Jan. 2009, Vol.6, No. 1)

Quercetin – Quercetin is found in the skins of apples, purple onions, and peppers, is believed to help inhibit prostaglandin synthesis and pro-inflammatory enzymes, known as cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes (i.e., COX-1 and COX-2), is thought may be useful to help combat the inflammation associated with certain chronic respiratory conditions or environmental irritants, and is thought may help inhibit abnormal colon cell growth by reducing COX-1 and COX-2 stimulated cell proliferation (Reference: Journal of Nutrition, Jan. 2009).  Quercetin contains beneficial glycosides (carbohydrate sugar molecules), the most beneficial of which is believed to be rutin (see “Rutin” below for more details).  Quercetin is thought to have a strong synergy with the phytochemical bromelain, the essential mineral magnesium, and vitamin C, which together are believed to help support the normal function of the respiratory tract.

Resveratrol – A polyphenol compound known as resveratrol (found in red grapes and grape skins, purple grape juice, red wine, peanuts, and certain berries such as blueberries, bilberries and cranberries) is thought to help support the normal function of the cardiovascular system.  Moderate amounts of regular alcohol consumption (1-2 glasses of red wine a day) have been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular problems.  However, it is now known that about 80-90% of the benefits are actually attributable to the temporary vasodilation (expansion) effect of the blood vessels in response to the alcohol content, with it remaining uncertain the exact role resveratrol may play.  Of course, regular consumption of alcohol will adversely affect the liver.  While the resveratrol naturally present in food may have some health benefits, resveratrol researcher Jane E. Cavanaugh, Ph.D. (Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA) calculated that: ”A 150-pound person would have to drink almost 700 4-ounce glasses of red wine a day to absorb enough resveratrol to get any beneficial effects.”  (Reference: 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, as reported in Medical Research, Aug. 19, 2012.)  There is speculation that resveratrol may inhibit certain types of abnormal cell growth (which it has done in some laboratory cell cultures) with the potential to extend the human lifespan, but the amount and concentration needed appears to exceed that which is possible in human consumption.  The healthiest source for resveratrol (and the other synergistic phytochemicals that accompany it) is believed to be from the non-alcoholic beverage and food sources indicated.

Rose Hips – Rose hips (rosa canina) is the fruit of the rose plant known as the “hip” portion of the rose, and is the richest known source of vitamin C (with it containing about  60% more vitamin C than citrus fruits).  It contains numerous phytochemicals that have a strong synergy with vitamin C, and is believed to enhance the uptake and function of vitamin C in the body.  Rose hips contain many beneficial polyphenols (such as anthocyanins and several glycosides of quercetin), several carotenoids (such as beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin) that act as antioxidants, and a variety of minerals and other vitamins in addition to vitamin C.  Rose hips has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties and in clinical studies has reduced blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is an inflammation marker in the blood that when elevated is believed to be indicative of having the presence of an inflammatory process involving the cardiovascular system.  Rose hips have been studied with some success involving the reduction of inflammatory conditions associated with the degeneration of joint cartilage.  During WWII, when the availability of citrus fruits were non-existent in England, the English government cultivated rose hips and made it into a syrup to keep them supplied with vitamin C to stave-off the ravages of “scurvy.”

Rutin – A natural bioflavonoid that is a glycoside (carbohydrate sugar molecule) of, and has a strong synergy with, the phytochemical quercetin (chemically rutin is also know as quercetin-3-rutinoside).  It is believed that rutin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Rutin is an important phytochemical that is thought to have the ability to strengthen and modulate (regulate) the permeability of the walls of blood vessels.  Rutin is especially known to help support the structural integrity and normal functional permeability of the smallest and most delicate blood vessels, the capillaries.  It is thought that rutin flavonoids help support normal blood circulation by helping to inhibit platelet aggregation (stickiness) and fibrin generation, thus having an anti-thrombotic (blood clot formation) effect.  (Reference: Rutin researcher Dr. Robert Flaumenhaft, Division of Hemostasis and Thrombosis at BIDMC, and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School; as published in NaturalNews.com, June 5, 2012.)  Rutin has a strong synergy with vitamin C, helping to support and maintain all collagen structures (such as the skin, blood vessels, and all connective tissues).  Studies suggest that rutin may have a cardio-protective quality, may have a beneficial effect on certain inflammatory conditions, and may be beneficial in helping to support normal eye and nerve function in those with blood glucose problems.  Rutin is believed to inhibit an enzyme (known as aldose reductase) that is normally present in the eyes and nerves which converts glucose (primarily from ingested carbs) into a sugar alcohol known as sorbitol.  Too much sorbitol trapped in the eye and nerve cells may damage these cells and lead to the common complications associated with blood glucose problems – retinopathy (eye damage) and neuropathy (nerve damage).  It is believed that rutin may help prevent these complications.  Rutin is naturally present in citrus fruits, buckwheat, black tea, the skins of apples, and anywhere there is quercetin (see “Quercetin” above).  Rutin is also available as a stand-alone supplement, usually in 500 mg per capsule or tablet potency.  A 500 mg capsule taken once or twice a day is generally considered safe.  However, there have been some reports of rarely occurring allergic-reaction side effects in those who are sensitive to rutin, which include dizziness, an elevated heart rate, headache, muscle stiffness, fatigue, diarrhea, and an upset stomach.  Those who are allergic to rutin should not take it in supplement form.  A high intake of rutin in supplement form has not been evaluated for safety.  Rutin that is naturally present in food is not known to cause any adverse effects.

Functional Foods” that are considered an especially healthful addition to the diet include:

Probiotics are friendly bacteria and yeasts (microflora) that benefit the intestinal tract.  The most common are the transitory lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium bifidum bacteria strains typically used in yogurt production and in some probiotic supplements, and the friendly microflora that survive stomach acid and adhere to the mucosal membranes to colonize the intestinal tract and promote intestinal tract health, such as saccharomyces boulardii and lactobacillus plantarum, and are beneficial and especially useful to replenish intestinal flora after a course of antibiotics.  Sometimes accompanying probiotics are the probiotic food fructooligosaccharide (FOS) or mannanoligosaccharide (MOS), which are a type of non-digestible carbohydrate (short-chain sugar molecules) similar to fiber, and are often referred to as a “prebiotic.”

Psyllium Fiber supports intestinal tract function, digestion and health (see “Fiber”).

Green Foods (aka “super greens” such as barley grass and wheat grass) provide varying amounts of a wide variety of plant-based nutrients (phytonutrients) and chlorophyll, and are thought to be especially healthful.

Marine Superfoods, which include astaxanthin (a powerful antioxidant carotenoid common in marine algae and seafood that, unlike other carotenoids, does not convert to vitamin A activity), blue-green algae, chlorella (the richest known source of chlorophyll), marine phytoplankton, and spirulina, all of which are reportedly full of health-promoting nutrients and phytochemicals.

BAP – Current research suggests that a daily amount of fresh broccoli, about 2½ oz. a day (loaded with sulforaphane which is thought to support normal cell function and may help inhibit abnormal cell formation and growth), an apple a day (the skins of which are loaded with anti-inflammatory quercetin), and a few ounces of pomegranate juice each day (loaded with health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants), is thought to strongly support health, especially cardiovascular and cellular health, and appears to be an important factor in preventing and inhibiting abnormal cell growth.  The old adage of “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” should be updated to: Broccoli, Apple and Pomegranate each day BAP for Health.  (For those who do not like the taste of broccoli, try it lightly steamed with one or all of the following healthy taste enhancers as a topping: Tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, lemon or lime juice, and/or any spice or herb of choice.)

Do not confuse the “BAP” (of “BAP for Health”) with bisphenol A (BPA), a toxic chemical typically used in the production of polycarbonate plastics that when ingested is thought to disrupt the normal hormone balance that may contribute to sexual and cellular dysfunction, and has been linked to cardiovascular and blood sugar problems as well as abnormal cell growth.  Food and water containers made from BPA-containing polycarbonate plastics are usually a rigid plastic and often marked on the bottom with the initials “PC” and have a recycling number of 7 (in a small triangle typically on the bottom of the container).  BPA is thought to migrate into the food or beverage from the containers, and is thought to be especially released into the food if such containers are zapped in the microwave.  The recycling numbers 1, 2, and 4 are considered safer choices for food/juice/water plastic containers.

The macronutrients, micronutrients and phytochemicals naturally present in food have a natural and strong synergy with each other and form the basis of health and life.

Moreover, a broad plant-based diet that encompasses a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, peas and soybeans), fish and seafood (including sea plants), 100% whole grains, olive oil, nuts, seeds, a select few animal-based foods like fresh free-range eggs, a little cultured nonfat dairy (yogurt), a little soft white cheese, occasional fresh meat, contains very little (if any) sugar, refined carbs or sugar-laden foods, and contains no trans fats or hydrogenated oils, remains the foundation of health.  This kind of a healthy diet can be thought of as a natural blend of the “Mediterranean Diet” with a strong Asian seafood influence, and is known as the MediterrAsian Diet.

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