The more bitter the better

Have you heard about PHYTONUTRIENTS?

I bet some of you probably did at some point, and some of you might have never heard. We usually tend to talk (and hear) about micro and macronutrients. However, phytonutrients are as important as the other nutrients are. Food and nutrition scientists regard phytonutrients as one the the three functional components of food, with nutrients and taste components. The function of phytonutrients is to prevent disease at the molecular level.

So, what are they? They are substances produced by plants naturally to protect themselves from viruses, bacteria, and fungi, as well as insects, drought, and even the sun. Also provide color, aroma, texture, and flavor. There are more than 25,000 phytonutrients, only a few hundred have yet been studied. They promote health by protecting us from cancers, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cataracts, others. They are also refer to as the “natural pesticides” within a plant.

You can find them in vegetables and fruits, and most of them, if not all, are bitter, acrid, or astringent, which is why we all tend (naturally) to reject most of the foods that are full of phytonutrients. They are phenols, polyphenols, flavonoids, isoflavones, terpenes, and glucosinolates. Phytonutrients and their metabolites elicit a variety of biological activities, acting as antioxidants, phytoestrogens, or enzyme inducers.

Where do we find them? In grapefruit, chocolate, wine, tea, beer, soy products, orange, lemon, apples, onions, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, mustards greens, just to name a few…;)

Enjoy your fruits and veggies!



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Prebiotics and Probiotics

Do you know the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

The word “probiotics” means “for life”, and are living microorganisms that confer a health benefit when consumed in the appropriate amount. They manufacture vitamins, especially B complex such as niacin, biotin, folic acid, and pyridoxine, which support and increase the rate of metabolism; detoxify chemicals; promote cell growth including that of red blood cells; and enhance immune and nervous system function. Probiotics also increase the production of enzymes, which improves assimilation and absorption of nutrients from food (bioavailability and bioaccesibility), particularly proteins and fats. Furthermore, they prevent growth of pathogenic microorganisms, thereby boosting immune system response.

What is usually forgotten is that we also need “prebiotics”. Prebiotics are non-digestible substances that provide a congenial internal environment for the probiotic microbes to be produced and to multiply. They provide nutrients and create  a compatible terrain for probiotic microbes to thrive. Dietary fiber (non-digestible cell wall material) is the best known prebiotic. The 2 main types of fiber, contained within certain plants, that act as prebiotics are inulin and fructooligosaccharide (FOS). They are mainly found in plants such as leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, endive, radicchio, burdock, bananas, and dandelions.

Prebiotics not only feed healthy bacteria, they also increase bioavailability of certain minerals in foods. Furthermore, prebiotics help support natural immune defenses of the gut such as secretory immunoglobulin A, which is the antibody naturally produced by the body to protect mucosal surfaces against infectious organisms and toxins.

So, working together, this “biotics” team is what keeps your digestive system working properly.

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How is a bag of potato chips compared to a bag of romaine (of the same size)?

They weight about the same. When you eat all the lettuce in the bag, you’ll probably feel as full as when you eat the same bag of chips… The difference is that with the chips you eat close to 1000 calories, much in the form of trans fats, while the lettuce contained a mere 35 calories and is replete with protein and micronutrients.

Which one you think will activate your satiation hormone (the one that tells your brain that you are full)?

The answer is the bag of lettuce. With the bag of lettuce, you got the level of nutrients that your body longed and needed. However, with the bag of chips, all you got is a calorie-dense/nutrients-poor food, and your body didn’t get the “food” that it needed, so it will keep sending messages to your brain, telling you, that you are “hungry”, simple because you didn’t meet your nutrients quota for the day. Furthermore, your “I’m hungry” message will not stop until you get at least some of the nutrients that your body so desperately needs.

So next time that you are actually “hungry”, think in terms of nutrients, did I give my body the NUTRIENTS that it needs? If not, look for the “nutrient-rich” foods, and your body will “thank you”.


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Bioavailability: what is it, and does it matter?

Some of you might have heard about “bioavailability” of nutrients before; however, just by listening to the word, one might suppressed any further thinking just because it sounds complicated. So, I wanted to clarify certain definitions from the beginning, since I’ll be using them a lot. And yes, bioavailability is very important, and it should be the first question asked when purchasing a product, in my opinion, it is more important than the “nutrition facts” panel (I’ll get to this point later).

For now, lets start with the following:

Bioavailability: The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) defines it as the rate and extent to which the active substances or therapeutic moieties contained in a drug, are absorbed and become available at the site of action. This definition also applies to active substances (nutrients) present in foods.

Bioaccessibility: amount of an ingested nutrient that is available for absorption in the gut after digestion.

For example, if the amount of recovered nutrient after digestion is of relevance then the term to use is bioaccessibility. On the other hand, bioavailability of a nutrient is usually measured in the blood plasma, so other factors such as the individual variability, physiological state, dose, and presence of other meal components come into play. So, keep in mind that, although all of a nutrien is potentially bioaccessible, in reality almost no nutrient is totally converted during digestion into a potentially absorbable form. In general, bioaccessibility and bioavailability of a nutrient are governed by the physical properties of the food matrix, which affect the efficiency of the physical, enzymatic, and chemical digestion processes.

I hope you are now confuse enough, and are eager to now more about this subject. Stay tune, I’ll be discussing more about it in the coming blogs.

Thanks for stopping by..;)

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I’m delighted that you are visiting my blog! Welcome!


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