(PRWEB) February 27, 2000
Whole Foods, Fruits and Vegetables Preferred as Source of Phytochemicals
WILMINGTON, DE Scientists believe that consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods is a preferred way to protect against disease. Such a diet provides an abundance of health-protective substances, called phytochemicals. These plant chemicals, together with other nutrients and dietary fiber, may slow the aging process and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cataracts, osteoporosis, and urinary tract infections.
An increasing number of people are consuming phytochemicals for optimal health. Some people prefer the disease-fighting power of whole, plant-based foods, while others turn to dietary supplements to provide specific, individual food components. As a part of Produce for Better Healths Natures Functional Foods: Arey They Here? Symposium, a group of distinguished researchers recently addressed the issue of whole foods versus individual components.
One of the most powerful sources of disease prevention comes from eating whole plant-based foods, said Elizabeth Pivonka, President of the Produce for Better Health Foundation. Fruits, vegetables and nuts contain a variety of phytochemicals and other nutrients which work together to help prevent disease. In contrast, a supplement contains only one or a few phytochemicals, which if consumed in excess could actually cause harm. The truth is that the whole is greater than the parts. Everyone wants a magic bullet, but, in the end, it all points back to the whole plant food, which has far more to offer than any supplement.
Pivonka said that the lines between foods, functional foods, nutraceuticals, medicinal foods and supplements are blurred. (See Figure 1 below.) For example, it may be difficult to distinguish when a food is functional and when it is medicinal. Consumers can overmedicate when taking herbs or dietary supplements. They often are not aware of the dangers of self-medication. We dont know all the drug-nutrient interactions with supplements, especially in high doses. Researchers do not know the risk/benefit on high doses of phytochemicals at this time. Because herbal products can act like drugs, physicians today recommend to their patients that they refrain from herbal products for a month prior to surgery because of their potential interaction with anesthetics, Pivonka said.