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Home Nutrition Healthy Eating Nutraceuticals- A Short Course in the Chemistry of Healthy Eating

Nutraceuticals- A Short Course in the Chemistry of Healthy Eating



Nutraceuticals-  A Short Course in the Chemistry of Healthy Eating

 

Everyday we are faced with countless choices.  We can either take an easy route or one with twists and turns.  It all boils down to the end result.  Do we want to just live or Live It Up?  It is a simple question but involves making a very important life-changing decision.  The choice we make must be one which we can live with everyday of our lives.  

Can you live with junk food?  Sure you can.   Will you live as long?  Maybe.  Will this adversely affect the quality of your life?  Definitely.  These are questions we all face on a daily basis.    

It is extremely simple to live a healthier lifestyle.  This can be done by introducing exercise into your life.  The American Council of Sports Medicine recommends exercising 5 to 6 times per week with a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.  There are numerous benefits that come with working out such as decreased body fat, increased overall range of motion, stamina, balance and lowering of blood-glucose levels and cholesterol.    

You cannot have a successful dietary plan without the addition of exercise.  The two together are award-winning ingredients for success.   Therefore you have completed half of the equation with your membership here at Midtown; the other half of the equation has yet to be accomplished.  The choice is yours.  

 


Nutraceuticals   

What does this funny name mean?  The term “Nutraceuticals” refers to functional foods that are helpful in prevention and/or treatment of disorders that are harmful to the human body.    They can be helpful in possibly preventing cancer, heart disease, or other chronic diseases.  If you are trying to lose weight and want to do it in a healthy way, these foods should be included in your diet.  

The main types of nutraceuticals are phytochemicals and antioxidants.  The two are parts of foods, as well as being whole foods themselves.  The question to ask yourself is, “How do I know which foods contain these beneficial components?”   The answer is very simple.    Phytochemicals are easy to spot when shopping—they are the compounds that give color to fruits and vegetables.  The bright colors of phytochemicals include red, yellow, green, and blue.  These colors are not just aesthetically pleasing; they provide healthy benefits which come from their powerful components.  Phytochemicals are also known for their sensory properties.  In addition to color, they provide the sensations of taste, aroma, and texture—both, pleasant and unpleasant.  Bitterness, burning sensations, and pungent smells are also created by phytochemicals.  

Some phytochemicals are combined with the benefits of powerful antioxidants, chemical components that help prevent oxidative damage, possibly helping to avoid the occurrence of some chronic diseases and inflammation, and reduce the effects of aging.  Aging can literally be brought on by a lack of fruits and vegetables because without the benefits of antioxidants, brain cells are more susceptible to damage, and damaged brain cells cannot be replaced.  The prevention of oxidative damage will also reduce harmful effects to cellular carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and genetic material.  

Here is a delicious example.  Carrots and butternut squash taste great and contain beta-carotene.  The active component of carotenes is both a phytochemical and antioxidant.  Their orange color is bright and attractive, but it’s a tip-off that there are also some fabulous health benefits that include but are not limited to improving the health of your eyes and skin.  The carotene element is transformed into vitamin A.  There are other various elements that give vegetables and fruits their noticeable color as well as acting as antioxidants to help you live worry-free.  


 

Where are the Nutraceuticals?

Phytochemical Names

Possible Antioxidant Benefit(s)

Food Sources

Lycopene

(red color)

·          cancer fighter

·          tomatoes

·          pink grapefruits

·          watermelon

·          papaya

Lutein and Quercetin

(yellow color)

 

 

·          help prevent/bring inflammation to a halt

·          aids in post-workout recovery

·          egg yolk

·          apples

·          grape skins (interacts with anthocyanin properties to give vibrant color to grapes)

·          onions

Anthocyanins

(purple color)

·          prevention of cancer

·          fights against diabetes

·          fights against the occurrence of age-related diseases

·          red cabbage

·          blackberries

Capsaicin

(an array of colors)

·          may help reduce artery disease and blood clots that could be fatal in the heart

·          hot peppers

Tannins

(yellowish and/or brown color)

·          reduction and prevention of carcinogens (cancer production)

·          grapes

·          lentils

·          tea

·          black-eyed peas

·          white and red wine

Phytic acid

(white color)

·          binds to minerals, prevents free-radical formation

·          possible cancer-risk reduction

·          whole grains

Resveratrol

(purple and red color)

·          may offset the damage of high fat diets which affect the arteries

·          red wine

·          peanuts

Saponins

(violet blue color)

·          may interfere with DNA replication

·          prevention of cancer cells from multiplying

·          stimulation of immune responses

·          alfalfa sprouts and other sprouts

·          green vegetables

·          potatoes

·          tomatoes


 

How much do you need?

Americans are not getting nearly enough of these wonderful foods.  Why?  It starts with the fact that too many of them are simply not on our shopping lists.  Everyone wants to make simple meals.  However a little work is necessary.  After all, Rome wasn’t built in one day either.  

Think about your diet:  what comes to mind?  Many quick put-together meals made up of simple, refined carbohydrates?  Bread, pasta, and white potatoes?  Not so great…   It is 2010.  Let’s change that.  

We need to eat more fruits and vegetables.  The average American diet provides us with just slightly over ½ cup of fruit per day and 1 cup of vegetables per day or on some days - none at all!  An average adult needs 3 to 5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit per day.  For example, one serving of vegetables is equivalent to a cup cooked broccoli, or serving of fruit is a single banana.  This means that with breakfast you should include onions, spinach, or other vegetables in an omelet, or perhaps as a side for dinner a cup of broccoli.  

If you are busy all day long, it’s tempting to choose the easiest option, but that’s not always a smart choice.  Instead of running to the closest donut shop or getting drive-through fast food, if you’re short on time go to your local market’s salad bar, and sort through the options.  Choose fruits and vegetables and add a lean choice of protein.  It is not impossible; it is doable; but you must be willing to put some thought into it.  If you can implement the required 5-9 servings you will be part of the fight to lower the incidence of strokes and other illnesses that are all too common.  Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in our country.  You can be one less American with cardiovascular disease if you resolve to have a new outlook on your diet and choose wisely.  

 

Everyday!  Really?  Vegetables and fruits?  My family is not going to eat them!

As we stated, Rome was not built in one day and neither will your family members be quick to eat their vegetables.  There are simple ways to implement these healthy components into your diet.  It can be done through all sorts of techniques that include but are not limited to grinding, mixing, chopping, juicing, and pureeing.  For example, pureeing broccoli, eggplant, or other vegetables into a tomato sauce will complement pasta dishes.  Another possible idea is to allow for snacks to consist only of healthy fruits and vegetables which, surprisingly, have a great taste as well as a great impact on improving your health.  You can even grate vegetables and add them as seasonings to lean meats.  Carrots can provide delicious taste and can be easily added into chili or meatball.  The phytochemicals can be added into foods effortlessly without altering texture.  Squash??   Guess what, your kids will eat it.  All you have to do is mince pieces and add it to spaghetti sauce and voila!  All of the methods will bring these elements into your meals without so much as a second glance.  You may be deceitful but you are doing so with very good intentions.  Your kids will thank you later!  

When you are creating your meals, think about the plate as an artist’s palate.  You want to keep it colorful.  The more colors, the more benefits you will be receiving.  Involve your family members, especially your children, in the selection of fruits and vegetables by taking them to the supermarket when you go shopping and having them help create a schedule of meals for the week.  You may even learn more about their tastes.

If you start planning meals with an eye to phytochemical-rich foods, your family will enjoy meals that are aesthetically pleasing because they will look forward to seeing and enjoying something beautiful.  So instead of the usual cake or cookies for dessert, perhaps some nice cantaloupe or berries could be substituted.  Remember, food is more than just physical sustenance:  meals also serve as a time for families to sit and enjoy being together, free of distractions.  In addition, research shows that children raised in families that share dinner together have fewer behavioral issues



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