“Natural Medicine” by Matthew D. Christianson


In September 1999, the National Institute of Health (NIH) published a “five-a-day” report, which advised all Americans to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables.  According to the NIH, there was enough evidence showing that following this prescription would protect our health.
The five-a-day campaign raised public awareness of the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables.  Due to the increased focus on the topic of food as medicine, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has put all of its efforts toward expanding knowledge in the field.
The AICR contributes to innovative research at major medical institutions and every year holds at least one major conference in Washington, D. C. sharing the results of the latest research.  The AICR has done an outstanding job of emphasizing the importance of fresh foods in cancer prevention.
The greatest thing the AICR has done was to increase the five-a-day recommendation of the NIH to seven daily servings of fruits and vegetables.  People need to eat more fruits and vegetables to obtain sufficient amounts of the medical ingredients they provide.  Food is medicinal and as with any drugs there is a proper dosage.
The active components of fruits and vegetables are called phytonutrients.  They are the chemical compounds in plants that act on human cells and genes to boost the body’s innate defenses against illness.  Phytonutrients can save our lives!
Due to environmental exposure to toxins such as air pollution first and second hand cigarette smoke, and several cancer-promoting chemicals in food and water, as well as the damage being done to your body by all kinds of internal and external stress, our own natural defenses are becoming overwhelmed.  The body’s defenses need the help of phytonutrients to maintain health.
Phytonutrients in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and spices are our sole source of phytonutrients.  These natural compounds give plants their color, flavor, smell and texture.  Phytonutrients also make up the immune system of plants, which protects plants from disease.  There are 2,000 known phytonutrients and one serving of fruit or vegetable can possess more than 100 different types.
The families of phytonutrients and their roles in health promotion are: Cruciferous, Flavonoids, Carotenoids and Terpenes.
–Crucifers; Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, dark leafy greens, and watercress.
These vegetables contain phytonutrients that may prevent cancer and interfere with the growth of cancer cells.  The phytonutrient indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is contained in cruciferous vegetables.  I3C stimulates the phase II enzyme system that helps clear cancer-causing toxins from the body.  Another phytonutrient found in crucifers is sulforaphane, which helps the liver’s enzymes detoxify the body.
–Flavonoids: Cherries, berries, red and purple grapes, currants, pomegranates, walnuts, apples with the skin, red onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and red wine.
These fruits and vegetables contain the flavonoids: ellagic acid, glucarate, reservatrol and quercetin.  Ellagic acid interferes with multiplication of cancerous cells and stimulates the detoxification enzymes in the liver.  Glucarate neutralizes several cancer-causing compounds, which form when cooking animal protein at high temperatures.  The flavonoids reservatrol and quercetin provide protection against heart disease by decreasing inflammation and fighting the clumping of blood platelets.
–Carotenoids: Pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato, squash, broccoli, dark leafy greens, tomato, corn, peppers, mango, guava, apricots, peaches, cantaloupe, and watermelon.
Beta-carotene is a familiar carotenoid to many, but it is only on e of more than 600 compounds in the family that have been discovered.  Carotenoids have been linked with prevention of colon, prostate, breast and lung cancer.  The carotenoid lutein reduces the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
–Terpenes: Citrus Fruits
D-limonene, limonin and nomilin are among 40 terpenes found in the peel, membranes, seeds, flesh and juice of citrus fruits.  These compounds promote anticancer activity and turn on the liver’s detoxification processes to rid the body of cancer-causing agents.
Distinctive health benefits are related to the intensity of the color of fruits and vegetables.  Phytonutrients are not lost in cooking because they are heat-stable.  Meals should be created using a complete spectrum of fruits and vegetables.  Cancer and all other diseases represent a complex psychological, physical, and emotional imbalance.  Through good nutritional choices, the foods that we eat can help us increase and maintain a healthy body over our lives!


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