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 www.aicr.org.
Specific Sources and Potential Functions of Phytonutrients
Potential Health Benefit
Concord grapes, radishes, berries, red cabbage
Powerful antioxidant that may have heart health benefits and help protect vision
Garlic, onion, leeks, chives
May stimulate anti-cancer enzymes and inhibit colon/stomach cancer
Carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, apricots, cantaloupe, dark green leafy vegetables
Antioxidants that may protect against lung and breast cancer
Turmeric, ginger. Most curry powders contain turmeric, yellow mustard
May reduce inflammation and stimulate enzymes that inhibit cancer