“Food is not just calories, it’s information. It talks to your DNA and tells it what to do. The most powerful tool to change your health, environment and the entire world is your fork.” – Dr. Mark Hyman

Food is information

One cell contains about 9 miles of DNA and in an average meal you consume approximately 55,000,000 cells. This is equivalent to 93,750 miles of DNA. Food is way more powerful than conventional medicine. Plant based foods interact with your genetics and DNA to heal your body through naturally occurring molecules called phytochemicals.

What are phytochemicals?

Phytochemicals are various biologically active compounds found in plants. The phytochemical category includes compounds recognized as essential nutrients and are required by the human body for sustaining life. Recent research demonstrates that phytochemicals have protective or disease preventive properties.

Phytochemicals under research can be classified into major categories, such as carotenoids and polyphenols, which include phenolic acids, flavonoids, and stilbenes/lignans.

How do phytochemicals work?

There are many phytochemicals and each works differently. These are some possible actions:

  • Antioxidant – Most phytochemicals have antioxidant properties and protect our cells against oxidative damage and reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Phytochemicals with antioxidant properties: allyl sulfides (onions, leeks, garlic), carotenoids (fruits, carrots), flavonoids (fruits, vegetables), polyphenols (tea, grapes).
  • Anti-bacterial effect – The phytochemical allicin from garlic has anti-bacterial properties.
  • Interference with DNA replication – Saponins found in beans interfere with the replication of cell DNA, thereby preventing the multiplication of cancer cells. Capsaicin, found in hot peppers, protects DNA from carcinogens.
  • Stimulation of enzymes – Indoles, which are found in cabbages, stimulate enzymes that make estrogen less effective and could reduce the risk for breast cancer. Other phytochemicals, which interfere with enzymes, are protease inhibitors (soy and beans), terpenes (citrus fruits and cherries).
  • Hormonal action – Isoflavones, found in soy, imitate human estrogens and help to reduce menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis.
  • Physical action – Some phytochemicals bind physically to cell walls thereby preventing the adhesion of pathogens to human cell walls. Proanthocyanidins are responsible for the anti-adhesion properties of cranberry. Consumption of cranberries will reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and will improve dental health.
Eat the rainbow

Plants reveal the presence of phytochemicals through vivid and vibrant colors. Each color corresponds to a different family of healing molecules. Eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and plant-based beverages has long-term health benefits, but there is no evidence that taking dietary supplements of non-nutrient phytochemicals extracted from plants similarly benefits health.

It is recommended to eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. When you consume the foods Mother Nature abundantly supplies to us she “speaks” to your DNA by switching genes on or off that relate to health and disease. So, with that being said, eat the rainbow, but not those Skittles!

-Russell

Some material sourced from Phytochemicals and Wikipedia.

Categories: Nutrition