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Phytochemicals – powerful protection from plants

June 4, 2014

It’s time to talk about phytochemicals, and make this term a household name. Just think about it: it sounds like a plot, an animal conspiracy to insure the untimely demise of carnivores and longer lives of vegetarians: the more animal foods people eat, the greater their risk of dying from chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. When people switch to a plant based, whole foods diet, their risk for such diseases miraculously diminishes.

By now, many people know about the benefits of adding fruits and veggies to their diets: plant foods are low in saturated fats and completely free of cholesterol. Plant foods are rich in fiber – animal foods are 100% fiber-free. The proteins in plant foods PROTECT against heart disease and kidney disease, while animal protein INCREASES exactly those risks.

By now, many know that fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, E and beta-carotenoids. But just when you thought, we knew all there was to know, in come the PHYTOCHEMICALS.

Phyto is Greek for “plant”; these are the naturally occurring chemicals that are responsible for the flavor, color, smell and texture in all fruits and vegetables. While phytochemicals are not currently considered essential nutrients, volumes of research studies are accumulating to support their strong and consistent beneficial effects on health.

Phytochemicals are not there for OUR benefit, but for the plants’: they help regulate plant growth and protect the plants from disease and insects. How lucky for human kind that exactly THOSE compounds work miraculous wonders for the human body. NO component in ANY animal food does that – another proof that humans were meant to consume primarily plant foods.

While veggies and fruits are considered our primary sources of phytochemicals, many legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices provide impressive contributions to our intakes. Tens of thousands of phytochemicals are scattered throughout the plant kingdom. The largest category of phytochemicals is PHENOLIC compounds, a group of over 4000 different chemicals. Within this category, there are several subgroups, the three most important being:

1. Flavonoids: concentrated mainly in veggies, fruits, green tea and soybeans.

2. Phenolic acids: found mainly in whle grains, berries, cherries, grapes, citrus and other fruits.

3. Tannins: found in lentils and other legumes black and green teas, grapes and wine.

Phenolic compounds have been found to have powerful antioxidant, anticancer and anti-cardiovascular disease effects.

Another large and extremely powerful group of phytochemicals is TERPENES. They include

1. Carotenoids (lykopene, beta-carotene and lutein) found in carrots, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables and other fruits and veggies

2. Limonoids found in citrus fruits

In addition to the aforementioned powerful antioxidant, anticancer and anti-cardiovascular disease activities, these compounds reduce the effects of aging and macular degeneration of the eyes.

A third major category of phytochemicals is the SULFUR-CONTAINING CHEMICALS such as

1. Organo-sulfur compounds found in garlic

2. Isothiocyanates, such as sulforaphane (view my previous post in this) in cruciferous vegetables.

These compounds have powerful anticancer and immune-enhancing abilities which have been demonstrated in the lab as well as in large population based studies.

What makes matters complicated – and VITALLY IMPORTANT – is that phytochemicals must act syngergistically for their effect, in order to produce the benefits observed. That is why they must be consumed as WHOLE food nutrients, and not as synthesized powders or pills, where their effects are NOT present. While interest in phytochemicals has spurned a whole new market for supplements and designer foods, NONE of these have shown the effects observed from consuming the WHOLE food containing these substances.

In fact, isolated administration of vitamin E was found to increase the risk of death when administered as a synthetic supplement.

While some foods stand out as real powerhouses, variety is the real key to a phytochemical-rich diet. Aim to make these foods part of your daily, regular meals, and you will have a phytochemical feast!

Cruciferous Veggies

Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, turnip greens, kohlrabi, kale, collars, mustard greens contain indoles and isothiocyanates with antiestrogenic activity potentially reducing the risk of hormone related cancers, like breast and prostate, as well as cancer in general.


Umbelliferous Veggies

Celery, carrots, parsnips, fennel, dill, anise, parsley and cilantro contain among many phytochemicals coumarins (inhibit blood coagulation), flavones (antioxidant, anticancer anti-cardiovascular activity), carotenoids , phthalides and polyacetylenes, which have potent antitumor activity.

Beta- carotene is the most popular carotenoid: it gives carrots and other orange colored vegetables and fruit its color. It is also a great example, why isolating beta-carotene and administering it in a pill doesn’t work: over 600 carotenoids are known so far to occur in nature, and it has become evident through research that many of these compounds must act together in order to achieve their beneficial effects. Another reason, why the WHOLE FOOD should be consumed, not a pill.

Allium Vegetables

These are the sulfur-containing veggies of the garlic and onion family, which also include leeks, shallots, chives and scallions. Allicin, ajoenes, vinyldithiins and allyl sulfides have very potent anti-thrombotic (prevent blood clotting), anti-microbial (anti-bacterial, -viral, – yeast), and anti-asthmatic.

Super Saturday night dinner

Let’s put some science to work in the kitchen today! Easy to make food can be super nutritious and always available if you keep a few basics in your pantry.

Some of you already know that I am a big fan of Eden Organic pasta, although it’s rare to find a store that carries all their incredible varieties, so don’t hesitate to go online at, and check out their vast selection of high quality whole grains pastas. Ask your grocery store to carry the less common varieties, like their kamut and flax pastas. Their pastas are made with either no salt at all, or very little. It is by far the best pasta on the market.

Diced canned tomatoes are a must-have, whether you are a plant-based eater or not. I love the fire-roasted variety, and there are also those with added basil, garlic or chili peppers.

Having fresh mushrooms in the fridge is another must. I know, there are folks who don’t like them. To that I say: learn to love them, because of their tremendous nutritional potential. There are so many ways to prepare them; starting raw in salads, to grilled, broiled, steamed, add to stews and sauces….

Mushrooms go with everything.

Mushrooms have vast medicinal properties that have been known for millenniums. And we are still discovering new ones.

Don’t forget your greens, especially the cruciferous ones. Packing a nutritional punch with roasted broccoli and/or Brussels sprouts is the easiest thing in the world.

So, here is what I made Saturday night for dinner:

▪ one box Eden Organic veggie pasta
▪ one 15 oz can diced tomatoes
▪ 1/2 cup chopped onion
▪ 1/2 lb trumpet mushrooms, cut up in large chunks
▪ two TBS tomato ketchup
▪ one cup Brussels sprouts
▪ one cup chopped broccoli, stem included (NEVER discard the stem!)
▪ minced garlic (start with a TBS and add more or less if you prefer), I LOVE minced dehydrated garlic (
▪ one TBS olive oil mixed with 2 TBS veggie broth or water
▪ one tsp salt
▪ freshly ground pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400 deg F. In a bowl, toss broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oil/water mixture, garlic, salt and pepper until the veggies are well coated. Spread in a single layer in a pan, and roast for no more than 10-15 minutes. The veggies should be bright green and still have significant bite.

In a stove top pan (not cast iron), heat up 1/4 cup of veggie broth or water, and cook the onion on medium-high heat until translucent, not burnt. Add the chopped mushrooms, and let them sweat (produce liquid in the pan). Do not let the liquid evaporate. As soon as you see that more liquid has formed in the pan, about 3 minutes, add the chopped tomatoes and ketchup. Bring everything to a brief boil, then turn heat down, cover and let simmer on very low heat, while pasta is cooking (see below).

Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook the pasta according to instructions, drain and keep warm.

There you have it: Super easy and super nutritious!

Ever Hear Of Sulforaphane?

Reviewing a mere month’s worth of medical literature provides a wealth of scientific articles on sulforaphane, a miraculous compound that can arrest the growth of cancer stem cells, and even reverse tumors.

In a fantastic lab study on mice, sulforaphane not only inhibited breast cancer stem cell growth, but even down-regulated its self–renewal tendencies.

In another brilliant study done on women undergoing breast reduction surgery proved that effective tissue levels of sulforaphane could be achieved in breast tissue within one hour of ingestion.

During the same month, studies were published on sulforaphane’s ability to do the same for colorectal and cervical cancer cells, as well as protect cartilage cells from destruction as well as protect smokers from DNA damage.

Wow, you think: sign me up! Where do I get this wonder drug?

The answer: BROCCOLI.

So fresh!

And broccoli sprouts. And kohlrabi. But broccoli and its sprouts reign supreme.

But, there isn’t any sulforaphane in either one of them! Until you BITE and CHEW it.

Just think of it this way: Ever played with those glow sticks, where you have to break to make them glow? Same here. Two chemicals are stored separately within broccoli cells, and combine only when nibbled and chewed, to make sulforaphane. It’s actually the plant’s means of protecting itself from predators, since it also causes its typical taste. But we humans are smarter — or should be: add some lemon juice, or other fat free, dairy free sauce to fresh or steamed broccoli and EAT IT! Better yet: Just 1 to 1.1/4 cups of fresh broccoli sprouts on a salad or sandwich, a day was shown to halt cancer stem cell growth in its tracks.

If that’s no miracle, I don’t know what is.

1) Clin Cancer Res. 2010 May 1;16(9):2580-90. Epub 2010 Apr 13.
Sulforaphane, a dietary component of broccoli/broccoli sprouts, inhibits breast cancer stem cells.
Li Y, Zhang T, Korkaya H, Liu S, Lee HF, Newman B, Yu Y, Clouthier SG, Schwartz SJ, Wicha MS, Sun D.

Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.

2) Carcinogenesis. 2007 Jul;28(7):1485-90. Epub 2007 Mar 7.
Preclinical and clinical evaluation of sulforaphane for chemoprevention in the breast.
Cornblatt BS, Ye L, Dinkova-Kostova AT, Erb M, Fahey JW, Singh NK, Chen MS, Stierer T, Garrett-Mayer E, Argani P, Davidson NE, Talalay P, Kensler TW, Visvanathan K.

Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.

The Tomato Effect: Rejecting What’s Right For The Wrong Reasons

There's a lot more to this little tomato than meets the eye. Read on.

There’s a lot more to this little tomato than meets the eye. Read on.

Everyone knows about the “placebo effect:” the enthusiastic and widespread acceptance of therapies later shown to be useless or even harmful.

But do you know about the “tomato effect”?

The “tomato effect” in medicine occurs when an effective treatment for a certain disease is ignored or rejected because it does not “make sense” in light of accepted theories of disease mechanism and drug action.

The tomato, which belongs to the “nightshade” family of plants, was originally found in Peru and then carried back to Europe, where it quickly became a food staple. By 1560, it was grown all over Europe.

But while the Europeans were enjoying their tomatoes, the fruit was being actively shunned in North America. Why? Because “everyone” knew it was poisonous. At least, everyone in North America. It didn’t matter, that everyone else in Europe was eating it.

As the story goes, a man by the name of Robert G. Johnson from Salem, N.J. made headlines in 1820 by sitting on the Salem courthouse steps and eating a tomato in plain sight. He survived to tell the tale. From then on, the tomato slowly but surely became a popular North American edible. Over the last 80 years of the 20th century, the tomato has become the largest commercial crop in the United States.

But it took a while.

There are many famous “tomato effect” stories in medicine. The use of aspirin is one of the most famous. But that is not, why I am writing this blog.

I’m writing this blog because we are currently living in the time of the plant-based diet’s “tomato effect.”

Since the rise of Dr. Dean Ornish and Nathan Pritikin science has known about the revolutionary health effects the plant based, whole foods diet has on preventing and reversing major diseases like atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, cancers, auto-immune disorders and many, many more. Just go to and search either one of them. The staggering number of scientific articles published over the years in the most prestigious medical journals is mindboggling.

Since then, scientists like Dr. T. Colin Campbell at Cornell University came along, with the largest epidemiological studies published to this very day, unequivocally proving that a plant based, whole foods diet is inextricably linked to disease prevention: the China Study, a 800-page monumental document.

Physicians like Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. Michael Greger — to name only a few — have performed groundbreaking clinical work and research on the plant based diet and disease reversal and prevention.

And yet, the western world at large, and the USA in particular, has never seen higher rates of obesity, diabetes type 2, and cardiovascular disease. While mortality outcomes from these diseases — as well as many forms of cancers — have improved, because of better treatments, the INCIDENCE has either remained unchanged from 30 years ago or increased.

And thus you have the “tomato effect” of the plant based diet in medicine: we have all the evidence that it works, yet it is barely put to use.

Medical students, physicians in training programs and thereafter, dietitians, and all allied health providers: NO ONE is being taught ANYTHING at all at this time about the benefits of a plant based diet. The reasons are complex and beyond the scope of this blog post, but I provide you with some excellent reading references on the subject.

More importantly: the public at large, while being brainwashed by the strong market forces in the media to consume fast foods, convenience foods and everything that’s highly processed, hears almost nothing about the real truth, the facts behind nutrition and disease.

As long as the dairy industry spends BILLIONS of dollars on advertising campaigns stating that “milk makes bones strong,” those of us who know the scientific facts have no chance of being heard. Namely, that dairy WEAKENS bones, that dairy consumed at an early childhood age increases the chances for type ONE diabetes (the incurable kind) by a multi-fold, that dairy contains pus cells, and that dairy hormones and growth factors promote cancer growth.

In my view, this goes way beyond the “tomato effect” — it borders on criminal.

I have long maintained, that we treat diet and disease today as we treated smoking and disease back in the ‘50s, when physicians were appearing in ads promoting their favorite brand.

In contrast to 1820, when all it took was a man sitting in plain view and eating a tomato, to disprove the notion that it was deadly to do so, in today’s reality leading by example is not enough.

What will it take before the “tomato effect” of the plant based diet will be dispelled?

Goodwin & Goodwin: The tomato effect. JAMA, May 11, 1984-Vol251, No 18

Please see also “Knowledge is Power” for links to the original article and other related literature.

Lose The Xanax


Take a breath. A deep breath. Now do it again. Do you feel that? That’s anxiety exiting your very being – melting away from your consciousness – allowing for a calm to roll in.

We need this. You need this.

The act and art of meditation and relieving oneself of anxious emotion is a necessity in the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. We live in a fast paced world. We have to act, and move very quickly in every waking moment. This ultimately leads to stress; a budding epidemic in today’s society. Stress is a detriment to our health. Like obesity, it weighs on us. It’s an “invisible” killer. You can clearly tell when someone’s overweight, and make your assumptions about their health accordingly, but anxiety escapes no one. It’s masked. It knows no bounds. You can be in great shape, but your heart, body, and mind may still be taking a beating – feeling the ill-effects of anxiety – ultimately making you no healthier than the person that has a couple of extra pounds at their waistline.

How do people cope with stress? Well, the typical American tends to self-medicate. To rid themselves of their daily stress by turning to assorted comforts allowing themselves to get their mind thinking about other things. Things that may play a role in an unhealthy lifestyle. Things like:

  • Overeating
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Recreational drugs
  • “Retail therapy”
  • Becoming a permanent piece of the couch

All of these methods are counterproductive. They’re the gateway to further medication, which is running rampant in contemporary United States of America.

Medications for anxiety include:

  • Benzodiazepines. They leave you feeling “calm and relaxed.” But at what price? Common benzodiazepines include Xanax, Librium, Valium, and Ativan.
  • Antidepressants, such as Paxil and Effexor. Doctors are quick to dish them out, without really digging in and garnering a complete understanding of a given patient’s ailment.

Dependency on anti-anxiety medications is a potential complication of treatment. These dependencies are infinitely expanding, and that’s a scary thought.

Lose the Xanax. Lose the prescribed medications. They’re a blanket that isn’t necessary. There are natural ways to go on living your life fully, and happily. The simple starting point is with breathing.

Let’s pause.

Are you ready? Take a deep breath. Now do it again. Do you feel that? Yeah, it’s that simple.

OK, now it’s time further your education. Meditation, using breathing techniques paired with gentle yoga based movements, is one of the most effective best-researched tools for stress management. But it’s not in the forefront of the media today. Medications are. Medications that are lining the pockets of those prescribing the drugs. Medications are a quick fix. They’re an “out-of-site, out-of-mind” type of treatment. It’s time to stop and breathe. The practice of remedial breathing techniques needs to be learned, practiced, and consistently put to use. Once you’re on the beat – on the mission of self-treatment – you can achieve maximum relaxation, and the benefits that stem from ditching, or getting a handle on anxiety.

Stress reduction classes and techniques are an important part of the Nourish Health approach to alleviating chronic conditions without drugs and achieving life-long wellness in our high stress society.

Inhale, exhale, and contact us today.
Complete relaxation awaits you.