The sight, smell, sound and texture of food is the result of the interplay between the library of compounds contained in food and the membrane receptors of the eyes, nose and mouth.
These interactions between phytonutrients and receptors make eating a joy. The interaction of other phytochemicals are responsible for the other benefit they provide, improved health.
In The Athlete’s Solution, fruits, vegetables and legumes are the main ingredients in every meal.
In addition to fueling exercise, these colorful foods lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
In addition to the benefits from exercise, there are other effects, directly attributed to the library of phytochemicals contained in the plant. These compounds include carotenoids, flavonoids and its subspecies of tannins, polyphenols and anthocyanosides. All in addition to its store of sulfur containing glucosinolates and nitrogen bound indoles.
These chemicals are part of Nature’s miracle libraries. They contain a vast ensemble of complicated compounds with difficult names and intricate chemistries. The essential point however is simple. Plants are good for health.
These plant phytochemicals ensure healthy biochemical pathways by protecting enzymes, membranes and active sites from free radical attack. These molecules also promote growth, aid in repair and repress the formation and growth of cancer cells.
The more color and variety that meals have the more diverse the libraries will be. A diverse library of phytochemicals is always preferred over a large dose of a single one.
Within the green food group are an assortment of leafy vegetables, grasses, herbs and spices. Their green appearance reflects the high concentration of chlorophyll contained in these plant’s cells.
Chlorophyll is the phytochemical responsible for converting solar energy into chemical energy during the process of photosynthesis. The energy is then converted and stored in the form of the essential nutrient, carbohydrate, which is stored in the plant.
The chemical energy released in the process is also used in the synthesis of the library of small phytonutrients formed by the plant. Many of these compounds are known to help the body ward off dangerous toxins, free radicals and mutagenic agents.
Chlorophyll itself is used as a breath freshener and it’s role in preventing cancer is still being investigated. It has the potential to stimulate red blood cell production because of its strong similarity in chemical structure to hemoglobin.
Both chlorophyll and hemoglobin possess four-peptide chains attached to a mineral. Chlorophyll has magnesium as its center while hemoglobin has iron. Their roles in the health of their respective organism are functionally similar.
Lutein is a powerful antioxidant. It is the most important antioxidant in the eye. Dark green, leafy vegetables contain a high concentration of lutein.
Lutein is important for eyesight because it is preferentially deposited in the macula and rods of the retina.
Lutein is a yellow pigment that absorbs blue light and prevents excessive oxidative damage to the eye. Lutein is a uniquely configured phytochemical that appears yellow to the eye but absorbs blue waves. Blue is bad for eyes.
Lutein’s predilection for accumulating in the eye and therefore protecting it, helps prevent macular degeneration, one of the chronic diseases associated with aging.
The blue wavelength damages the eye. Blue waves initiate free radical production in the photoreceptors of the eye. Like all free radical attack, oxygen radicals contain an unpaired electron. The unpaired molecule is highly unstable and immediately seeks out the nearest structure to attack in order to stabilize itself.
When free radicals are generated they attack the lipoproteins in the two hundred million or so rods and cones of the retina. The retina is the structure in the eye that is responsible for vision and which contains the rods and cones that receive images.
The receptors of light or photoreceptors become altered and damaged when free radical attacks occur. Free radicals, if not quenched or prevented from forming in the retina, will damage the macula or central region of the retina.
Lutein prevents the formation of free radicals by absorbing the harmful blue waves.
Prolonged damage causes macula degeneration, a common result of aging. It is also caused by a diet deficient in lutein.
Alpha lipoic acid, also known as thioctic acid, is another powerful antioxidant found in a few green foods.. Alpha lipoic acid is naturally founds as part of spinach’s phytochemical library where it is bound to a protein. Alpha lipoic is routinely added to supplement formulas because there is not enough foods that provide it.
Alpha lipoic acid, along with vitamins C and E, are the body's first-line of defense against free radicals. Unlike the two antioxidant vitamins (C and E), alpha lipoic acid is able to quench free radicals in both polar (only vitamin A) and lipid (only E) environments.
This makes alpha lipoic the ideal antioxidant.
The conversion in the body of alpha-lipoic acid to dihydrolipoic acid appears to produce an even more powerful antioxidant. Both forms of lipoic acid quench peroxynitrite radicals, free radicals implicated in causing cancer..
Alpha-lipoic acid promotes synergism between antioxidants. This network of antioxidants includes alpha lipoic acid, vitamins C and E as well as glutathione peroxidase and Coenzyme Q10.
Lipoic acid increases insulin-receptor sensitivity. This improves the ability of insulin to bind to muscle cells and thus facilitates glucose entry into muscle cells, this reduces blood glucose levels. It is thought alpha lipoic acid reduces the frequency of insulin resistance based on this mechanism.
Insulin resistance is often the cause of coronary heart disease and obesity. The therapeutic dose for lipoic acid is 600 mg/day.
In Europe alpha-lipoic acid is used as a medical treatment for peripheral neuropathy, a complication of diabetes. In the United States, it is sold as a dietary supplement.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Skin Care
Anti-aging medicine is based on reversing the body’s molecular decline before it develops visible decay.
Women have long been the beneficiaries of treatments to counter the loss of estrogen. There are now hormone replacement treatments that are available for men that delay the symptoms of andropause.
There are also toxic injections, invasive surgeries and fat sucking procedures that boomers are now undergoing in record numbers. Their behavior not only threatens their own health but will undoubtedly harm America’s fiscal future.
There are natural methods to counter both the loss of estrogen, testosterone and collagen.
Wrinkles for example are managed by combining alpha-lipoic acid, dimethylethanolamine (DMAE), CoQ10, and green tea polyphenols to remove fine wrinkles.
These powerful antioxidants are combined with moisturizers, soy isoflavones and kinetin, (a plant growth factor) to retain water in the skin and stimulate the production of collagen.
Topical application of grapeseed oil is also used to prevent wrinkles and reduce the development of crow’s feet around the eye.
Silver Ear (Tremela Fuciformis) mushrooms have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat asthma, bronchitis and dry coughs.
T. Fuciformis contains a unique beta-glucan that is believed to have great water-retention property making it a valuable ally in preventing and erasing wrinkles.
T. Fuciformis is therefore often combined with vitamin E, alpha-lipoic acid and Coenzyme Q10 in the production of cosmetics and facial creams as a natural method to rejuvenate skin.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Cancer
An interesting combination of natural products has been the subject of a great deal of interest from researchers. The combination involves resveratrol, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) , alpha lipoic acid, and melatonin.
These four natural compounds help the body block specific estrogen metabolites from binding with DNA, thereby preventing the formation of adducts and mutations. The combination is presumably more effective than the individual compounds and is deemed preventive for breast and prostate cancers.
Reservatrol (resorcinol) is the polyphenol found in wine. It is a powerful antioxidant synthesized and stored in the skin of the red grape
The Green Vegetables
Green leaf vegetables are plant leaves usually need to be cooked before they can be eaten. They are low in calories, high in fiber and contain an assortment of phytochemicals.
Green herbs include basil, oregano, lemon grass and rosemary, coriander and parsley. These foods are all rich in antioxidants and cancer-preventing polyphenols.
Other green vegetables include avocados, artichokes, asparagus, celery and parsnips as well as the cruciferous family of vegetables.
Another great green food is Kiwi fruit, which in addition to its wonderful taste, contains a very high concentration of the antioxidant vitamin, Vitamin C.
Kiwi fruit is an edible berry.
Kiwi fruit are oval shaped spheres that resemble eggs A fibrous, green skin covers the bright golden flesh that contain rows of small, black, edible seeds. The fruit is quite flavorful.
In addition to taste, kiwi fruit is a rich source of vitamin C, and provides almost as much potassium as a banana. It is a good source for vitamins E and A.
The skin of the fruit contains a group of flavonoid antioxidants whose role in health have never been studied. All this is meant to imply is that there are probably enough phytohormones embedded in the skin or incorporated into the seed that there is a good probability that this green fruit has medicinal activity.
Kiwi fruit seed oil contains 62% alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid. Kiwi fruit provides a mild laxative effect due to its high fiber content.
The most important of the green foods are the cruciferous vegetables. These foods include the hundreds of varieties of cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and turnips that are enjoyed around the world.
They and the other members of the family are now the focus of research to develop drugs that cause apoptosis or cancer cell death.
Cruciferous vegetables are considered cancer-preventive foods because they contain high concentrations of indoles and isothiocyanates.
Mediterranean cooking depends on tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil and lemon to give flavor to meat, vegetables, rice or pasta. Collectively, they provide a spectrum of compounds not found in cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.
Sauteing them in virgin olive oil gives the meal a nice dose of healthy fats, and sprinkling Extra-Virgin olive oil before eating adds flavor and even more phytonutrients.