Bioactives- The Low Down
What is the deal with broccoli? Why are berries so good for you? Is a tomato just a thing that people love or hate?
The way I look at food today is completely different to how I did in the past.
Many of you who have read my previous blogs, have come to one of my workshops or see me as a patient, know I absolutely love talking about bioactives.
If we were to play the word-association game and I were to say “nutrition”, the associated words would be carbohydrates, proteins, fats, calories and possibly vitamins and minerals. We learn which foods to eat to help our sugars in diabetes, which foods have less calories for weight loss and how to eat calcium as its good for our bones.
Today, the way we talk about nutrition has changed! Today the nutrition conversation is about what ingredients we’re putting on our plates and how we should be preparing them to unlock their deeper nutritional power. Today, food should be viewed with the question “what foods should I be including in my diet that will help prevent diseases and allow me to be healthy as a whole, starting with my cells all the way to my skin”.
I am by no means saying that proteins, carbohydrates and fats are not important, in fact they are essential for our survival and many chemical pathways, however it is also important to become aware of the myriad of vitamins, minerals and bioactive components that each food item has to offer, as this is what builds the path to deeper nutrition.
What are bioactives all about?
As I mentioned in my previous blog about nutrigenomics and DNA, the food we eat can provide information for our genes and influence the way they behave. If you recall, our genes produce proteins which are involved in directing all the chemical reactions and functions in our body.
Bioactives are a group of non-nutritive components found in our food, which have the power to influence the way in which our genes behave. They act like a biological switch master, ‘switching on’ specific genes while ‘switching off’ others. They can therefore impact many chemical pathways that occur in our body which contribute to our health, such as promoting detoxification in our liver, reducing inflammation, promoting blood sugar control, enhancing fat breakdown and turning off cell division which can lead to cancers. As Amanda Archibald from the genomic kitchen describes it, “bioactive ingredients are the gems or the semi-precious stones of the food we eat, acting like robots, sending a green light to a gene to produce a unique protein, or sending a red light to stop the production of a protein”.
Which foods have bioactive components?
Bioactive components are found in a variety of food items and some food choices have more than one. Some common bioactives which you may have heard of before are lycopene found in cooked tomatoes, curcumin found in turmeric and resveratrol found in berries or that glass of red wine we all enjoy.
Others, which may not be familiar but will soon be as common as vitamin C, are sulforaphane found in cruciferous and green leafy vegetables or quercetin found in capers, fennels, onion, garlic, leeks and more.
Each bioactive can talk to our genes in a unique way.
Sulforaphane for example, can ‘switch on’ genes involved in our detoxification pathways in our liver, allowing us to process toxins as well as breakdown oestrogen in an optimal manner. This benefits the body in numerous ways, including hormone balance, reducing risk for cancer development, reducing risk for weight retention as a result of fat toxin accumulation and the list goes on. Sulforaphane also ‘switches on’ the master regulator of our body’s anti-oxidant cascade, promoting longevity and reducing the risk for chronic disease and cancer development.
Pretty nifty huh!?
The question is, how do we know which foods contain these gems and how to we prepare them in way that ensures they are as powerful as a they can be?!
Stay in tune, don’t stop reading…. Soon you will find out.
Nourish yourself to the sunrise.
Written with love ,
Sunrise by HM
Nourished yet? Comment on what I should write about next?
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