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Culinary Medicine

Eating Well & Staying Well

Gerri French, MS, RD, CDE
Gerri French, MS, is a registered dietitian (RD) and certified diabetes educator (CDE) for Sansum Clinic. Gerri has been a clinical nutritionist and cooking instructor for 30 years. She is also a mother and enjoys sharing practical information and recipes with her patients and their families.

by Gerri French, MS, RD, CDE

Interested in a healthy 2012? What you eat can have a dramatic effect on your health and wellness; it's called Culinary Medicine… and it tastes good!

If you are interested in natural forms of healing, think Culinary Medicine. Plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds) contain substances called phytonutrients that some think have the ability to decrease the chronic inflammation in the body which is one cause of many modern day diseases. The word "phyto" means plants in the Greek language, and phytonutrients are nutrients produced by plants.

Many phytonutrients, which are responsible for the bright colors in plants, are made to guard plants against harsh weather, viral attack, and the insults of handling, and to provide defenses against unstable forms of oxygen. Humans may benefit from eating plants that contain these disease fighting substances.

Some phytonutrients contain antioxidants which many believe delay the aging process and protect or slow the formation of carcinogens (cancer causing agents) and the oxidation of fats, which initiates the heart disease process. Other phytonutrients inhibit the action of chemicals that stimulate cell growth and tumor development.

One reason health professionals are so excited about phytonutrients is their possible ability to interact with every step in the cancer process, slowing, stopping or reversing it by affecting enzymes that convert healthy cells to cancerous cells.

In addition, some phytonutrients may lower cholesterol, reduce arterial plaque, and counter osteoporosis. Each phytonutrient plays a different role. A tomato or orange contains hundreds and possibly thousands of phytonutrients.

See the following chart for specific sources and potential functions of phytonutrients. For more information, the American Institute for Cancer Research is a wealth of information; visit their website at


Specific Sources and Potential Functions of Phytonutrients
PhytonutrientFood SourcesPotential Health Benefit
Anthocyanins Concord grapes, radishes, berries, red cabbage Powerful antioxidant that may have heart health benefits and help protect vision
Allyl sulfides Garlic, onion, leeks, chives May stimulate anti-cancer enzymes and inhibit colon/stomach cancer
Carotenoids Carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, apricots, cantaloupe, dark green leafy vegetables Antioxidants that may protect against lung and breast cancer
Curcumins Turmeric, ginger. Most curry powders contain turmeric, yellow mustard May reduce inflammation and stimulate enzymes that inhibit cancer
Indoles Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower May help protect against estrogen promoted cancers
Luteins Broccoli, spinach, carrots, corn, tomatoes, greens May protect against cataracts and macular degeneration
Lycopenes Tomatoes (especially cooked), red grapefruit, watermelon Antioxidant; may reduce risk of prostate, stomach and esophageal cancer; may help protect against vision loss
Quercetin Grapes, apples, cherries, red onions, kale, broccoli Antioxidant may be helpful in protecting against respiratory allergies and asthma


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