When you were growing up, how many times a day did you hear your parents say eat your vegetables! I know in my house, I either ate them or I was grounded. And when I asked why I had to eat them, my parents smiled and said they would help me to grow up to be big and strong like Popeye. Like I really cared. “Mom,” I would protest. First of all, I really don’t want to grow up, and secondly, if I do have to, I sure as heck don’t want to end up looking like a balding, big-chinned sailor with sledgehammer forearms (I’m paraphrasing, of course). Nowadays, most kids think vegetables are the lettuce and pickles on a Big Mac or the green in green Jello.
I may have thought my mom and dad were crazy at the time, but looking back, they weren’t that far off. A hundred years ago (before big business began destroying the environment), fruits and vegetables were picked when they were ready to be picked and our soils were rich with vitamins and minerals that not only helped our bodies to flourish with the strength and power of cartoon characters, but also helped us in the prevention of illness and disease by strengthening of our immune systems. Not anymore. Greed is a destructive beast, but that’s a different article.
The real crime is that by picking our fruits and vegetables before they ripen, we’re not getting the value out of our foods that we really need, specifically phytochemicals. The term “phyto” is derived from the Greek word for plant, and “chemical” is a substance with a distinct molecular composition. In other words, the phytochemical (when given half a chance) is what eventually makes the tomato ruby red, the carrot bright orange, the beet majestic purple, and the broccoli deep green.
These phytochemicals are derived from naturally-occurring ingredients and have evolved to protect plants from the free-radical and oxidative damage induced by certain energy rays of the sun. They are found in many fruits, grains, legumes, coffee, some teas, green peppers, garlic, onions, bran and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, kale, papaya, pineapple, tomatoes and turnips. Now, when was the last time you ate 5-9 servings of all those foods in one day? For that matter, in one year. I don’t know about you, but I’ve talked with people that have never even tasted kale or don’t like Brussels sprouts and the other vegetables and fruits that you and I both know are good for us. They may not want to hear about it, but when those same people don’t have a steady supply of phytochemicals in their daily diet, they really compromise the longevity and quality of their lives.
Phytochemicals have been associated with the prevention and/or treatment of at least four of the leading causes of death in this country: Cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. They have also shown results in the prevention and/or treatment of other medical ailments including neural tube defects, osteoporosis, abnormal bowel function and arthritis. Even the National Cancer Institute estimates that one in three cancer deaths are diet-related and that 8 to 10 different cancers have a nutrition/diet component in their makeup. Devra Lee Davis, senior science adviser at the US Public Health Service, says “there is growing evidence that these natural products can take tumors and defuse them… They can turn off the proliferative process of cancer.” Put that on your celery stick and eat it!
Various fruits and vegetables contain different kinds of phytochemicals. For example, broccoli contains “sulforaphane,” a small molecule that expedites the excretion of carcinogens from cells, and it seems to keep lab animals from getting breast cancer. Also present in broccoli is PEITC (phenethyl isothiocyanate), which prevents carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbons (organic compounds containing carbons and hydrogens that have a 6 carbon ring characteristic and are highly carcinogenic) from intercalating with DNA thus causing mutations, and indole-3-carbinol, an indole derivative (a white crystalline compound known as “C8H7N”) that aids in the metabolism of estrogens. PEITC inhibits lung cancer caused by chemicals in mice and rats. I know it’s a mouthful, but it’s a perfect example of how these miraculous little substances can play such an important role in a healthy lifestyle.
Research in the early 90’s led biochemists to suspect that both sulforaphane and its synthetic version work their magic by boosting the activity of “phase 2 enzymes.” These enzymes detoxify carcinogens by hooking them up to molecules that act like a transport system. Within hours of the broccoli’s arrival in the stomach, carcinogens are transported out of the cells before they can cause harm. So I guess former President Bush better learn to eat his broccoli, like it or not!
Tomatoes, strawberries, pineapples, and green peppers have relatively high concentrations of p-coumaric and chlorogenic acid, two chemicals that reduce the production of nitrosoamines (a class of organic compounds with the general formula R2NNO or RNHNO found to be highly carcinogenic), thus reducing potential for carcinogenic activity. During digestion, the body routinely makes nitrosamines out of nitric oxide and components of protein called amines. Hot chili peppers, already known to be a rich source for the antioxidant vitamin C, also contain high concentrations of a phytochemical called capsiacin. Capsiacin helps in the metabolism of epoxide aromatic hydrocarbons, interfering with their ability to bind effectively with DNA. A phytochemical in strawberries, grapes and raspberries also neutralizes carcinogens before they can invade DNA. It’s called ellagic acid.
Although it’s really not that easy to get cancer, and a cell has to go through many changes before it becomes malignant, there were over 1,228,600 new cases that reared their ugly head this year in the United States alone. Since 1990, approximately eleven million new cancer cases have been diagnosed. These estimates do not include carcinoma “in situ” (non invasive cancer) except for urinary bladder, or basal and squamous cell skin cancers. According to the Americal Cancer Society, over a million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are expected to be diagnosed over the next twelve months, and, this year, about 564,800 Americans are expected to die of cancer — more than 1,500 people a day. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, exceeded only by heart disease. One of every four deaths in the US is from cancer. Since 1990, there have been approximately five million cancer deaths. That’s a lot of people, and it’s no wonder that biologists are beginning to explore nutritional substances that seem to make a difference in the molecular structure of this disease, specifically phytochemicals which have shown great promise in the fight against this mighty foe. In fact, to quote epidemiologist, John Potter, of the University of Minnesota, “At almost every one of the steps along the pathway leading to cancer, there are one or more compounds in vegetables or fruit that will slow up or reverse the process.”
Even when all else fails, phytochemicals can intervene to fight off cancer. It’s actually not the little tumor that kills the patient, it’s the lump that grows which invades the bloodstream, sending metastasizing colonists throughout the body. That’s how breast, prostate and other solid tumors kill. But the original lump cannot grow without supply lines, capillaries that bring oxygen and other nutrients. Last year, German researchers announced that they had isolated a chemical in soybeans that prevents these vital supply lines from forming. Called genistein, it might one day be copied in the lab and given to people to prevent small tumors from growing. In fact, it’s been noted that the lack of genistein in the American diet may explain why Japanese men who relocate to the West for even a few years have a greatly elevated risk of prostate cancer. Without genistein, tiny tumors are no longer deprived of the blood vessels that let them grow.
It’s important to remember that a fruit or vegetable picked green contains little or no phytochemicals in the edible portion of the plant. Have you ever been to Hawaii or Mexico and tasted pineapples, mango or papayas that made your taste buds dance with unexplainable delight, your mouth drooling with the juice of the fruit after the first bite? Well, here in America, it’s hard to find a tomato that has any taste let alone any juice. Why is that? It’s because our growers pick fruit long before they’re ripened in order to make way for a whole new crop — money, money, money! Big business may not realize it, but nonetheless, it’s gotten in the way, resulting in an overall deficiency of these vital chemicals in the national diet.
The bottom line is you need to supplement your diet! But make sure that whatever brand of phytochemicals you purchase are made with vine-ripened fruits and vegetables and are in a capsule form and not a tablet. Tableting has a tendency to diminish the nutritive benefits of a product, not to mention that it’s usually processed with fillers, binders, preservatives and excipients that are used to hold it together. Also remember that the milligram count of a tablet is not necessarily its potency. Very often, a so-called 1000 mg vitamin C tablet is composed of only 200 mg’s of the actual vitamin and the other 800 mg’s are fillers and binders. Thus, the 1000 mg is really the tablet’s weight count.
Kids today are eating more and more junk food, and I’m disturbed that such a physically unhealthy generation is going to inherit the world. A recent survey of 3,112 children (grades 2 – 6) showed that 24% had no fruit the day prior to the survey, and 24.9% had no vegetables. Isn’t there something frightening about these figures? I think so, which compels me to tell you about an awesome children’s phytochemical product called “Phyto-Bears.” This is a product composed of phytochemicals in a base of vegetable gelatin and natural fructose. They are unbelievably delicious and look just like cute little gummy bears. So when it comes to making your kids eat their vegetables, here’s a safe and sure way to get the job done. And for children who are too young to chew, they also make capsules that you can break open and put into a bottle of juice. My 85 year-old mother had a hard time swallowing pills after her chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma, so the Phyto-Bears were perfect for her.
If you’d like more information on this subject or product, feel free to fax your address to Ms. Jackie Padgette at 818.989.4016, and don’t forget to mention that Spice sent you. I’m sure Ms. Padgette will be glad to send you any additional information you might require.