Herbal Plants, Nutraceuticals : Indigenous Plants to Boost Your Health
The health revolution has become highly popular in recent years. Consumer awareness increased on diets as a means to promote good health and prevention of diseases. this health revolution actually started in the mid ’80s, during the emergence of the so called functional foods.
Functional foods, as defined to us by Dr. Rodriguez, are processed foods containing ingredients that are not just nutritious but also aid specific bodily functions. The International Life Sciences Institute of North America(ILSI) also defines functional foods as “foods that by virtue of the presence of physiologically-active components provide health benefits beyond nutrition.”
Beyond nutrition means food can be used as sources of natural chemicals to prevent many chronic and degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, age-related macular(eye) degeneration, central neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes.
Development in recent food technology has introduce the so called nutraceuticals. As defined by the US Foundation for Innovation in Medicine, nutraceuticals are any substance that is a food or part of a food and provides medical or health benefits, including prevention and treatment of disease.
This food revolution has inevitably influenced the food market as well. Functional foods had the value of US$30 billion in 1999, $15 billion just for the United States alone, and $14 billion for Japan (with the rest of the value shared by other countries). By 2000, functional foods valued in the World Market spiked up to US$ 51.4 billion. In 2007, this market was estimated to have reached the US$37.5 billion in the United States alone.
These figures not only indicate the increasing enterprise and the massive increase in consumer awareness for health and anti-disease benefits from foods. It’s a worldwide testimonial in figures of how beneficial plant foods are.
And Filipinos are born lucky, because we can maximize these new information for our own heath, as these foods can be found in our local flora.
In 1991, the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation(US) developed the “5 A Day For Better Health Program” to spread awareness on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. Today this program has been intensified to 10 (Fruits and Vegetables) A Day.
Most functional foods with physiologically active components like phytochemicals from plants are widely available in our own indigenous fruits and vegetables. These are fruits and vegetables we can grow in our own backyard. While highly industrialized countries spend billions of dollars to access these disease fighting plant foods, Juan dela Cruz can make use of vegetables readily available in the Philippines because our country is so rich in biodiversity.
Before we do a run down on these fruits and vegetables for our health, lets first identify the phytochemicals we can use to fight diseases.
There are five color groups of phytochemicals: red, yellow/orange, green, blue/purple, white/tan/ brown. Dr. Rodriguez stresses that to maximize the benefits of these phytochemicals, we must eat a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables.
The more colorful our diets, the more benefits we get from plants and vegetables. “Each color offers something unique, different vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals that all work together to protect our health,” states Dr. Rodriguez.
However, both Dr. Cardenas and Dr. Rodriguez steadily remind everyone, these plant foods contain beneficial chemicals for prevention of diseases, and not for the purpose of curing existing illnesses.
We are used to the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” With these new information, from technology from other countries and consistent research from our professors and students in UP Los Banos, we can definitely protect our health by use of plant foods that we can readily avail of in our corner talipapa, if not grow right in our own back yard. Protecting our health is surely within reach.
COLOR CODING FOR HEALTH
Red – Red fruit and vegetables are rich in lycopene, which is widely popular now for preventing cancer. These plants also contain Anthocyanin, a phytochemical that delays diseases associated with ageing.
Sources of lycopene are tomato, watermelon, pink-flesh guava, red-flesh papaya.
Yellow/Orange – Fruits and vegetables in yellow or orange color are rich in beta-carotene and flavonoids. Beta-carotene is popular for eye health. However, its more important benefit is that it reduces the risk of heart diseases and cancer. These fruits and vegetables also slow down the ageing process.
Sources of beta-carotene are : carrot, melon, green leafy vegetables like malunggay, red pepper, yellow & orange-fleshed camote, mango, dalandan, calamansi.
Green – Green fruits and vegetables have high lutein content. Lutein promotes good eyesight. These plant foods also prevent certain cancers.
Sources of lutein are green leafy vegetables, broccoli, peas, yellow corn.
Blue/Purple – These plant foods contain anthocyanins and phenolics which reduce the risk of cancers, heart disease, and they also help slow down ageing.
Phenolics can be found in foods such as fruits, vegetables(gabi leaves, siling labuyo leaves, malunggay, wine, tea, nuts and cereals).
White/Tan/Brown – These fruits and vegetables contain allyl sulfides and polyphenols which reduce the risk of heart disease.
Food sources are garlic, onions, green onions, shallots, chives, nuts, apples, broccoli, cocoa, dark chocolate.