Phytochemicals In Plant-based Foods Could Help Battle Obesity, Disease

Eating healthy servings of broccoli or leafy greens first could help people battle metabolic processes that lead to obesity and heart disease, a new study from University of Florida reports.

Eating more plant-based foods, which are rich in nutritive substances called phytochemicals, seems to prevent oxidative stress in the body, a process associated with obesity and the onset of disease, according to findings published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.

To get enough of these protective phytochemicals, researchers
suggest eating plant-based foods such as leafy greens, fruits,
vegetables, nuts and legumes at the start of a meal. Using what is
known as a phytochemical index, which compares the number of
calories consumed from plant-based foods compared with the
overall number of daily calories, could also help people make
certain they remember to get enough phytochemicals during their
regular meals and snacks.

"We need to encourage people to pull back on fat and eat more
foods rich in micronutrients and trace minerals from fruits,
vegetables, whole grains and soy. Fill your plate with colorful,
low-calorie, varied-texture foods derived from plants first. By slowly
eating phytochemical-rich foods such as salads with olive oil or
fresh-cut fruits before the actual meal, you will likely reduce the overall
portion size, fat content and energy intake. In this way, you're
ensuring that you get the variety of protective, disease-fighting
phytochemicals you need and controlling caloric intake." explained
the researchers studying a group of young adults; The team analyzed
their dietary patterns over a three-day period, repeating the same
measurement eight weeks later. The participants were broken into
two distinct groups: normal weight and overweight-obese.

Although the adults in the two groups consumed about the same
amount of calories, overweight-obese adults consumed fewer
plant-based foods and subsequently fewer protective trace minerals
and phytochemicals and more saturated fats. They also had higher
levels of oxidative stress and inflammation than their normal-weight
peers. These processes are related to the onset of obesity, heart
disease, diabetes and joint disease.

Diets low in plant-based foods affect health over the course of a
long period of time. This is related to annual weight gain, low levels
of inflammation and oxidative stress. Those are the onset processes
of disease that debilitate people later in life.

Oxidative stress occurs when the body produces too many damaging
free radicals and lacks enough antioxidants or phytochemicals to
counteract them. Because of excess fat tissue and certain enzymes
that are more active in overweight people, being obese can actually
trigger the production of more free radicals, too.

Because many phytochemicals have antioxidant properties, they
can help combat free radicals. Phytochemicals include substances
such as allin from garlic, lycopene from tomatoes, isoflavones from
soy, beta carotene from orange squashes and anythocyanins from
red wine, among others.

"People who are obese need more fruits, vegetables, legumes
and wholesome unrefined grains," the researchers stressed.
"In comparison to a normal-weight person, an obese person
typically has many adverse metabolic processes going on."

"Instead of making drastic changes, people could substitute one
or two choices a day with phytochemical-rich foods to make a
difference in their diets. For example, substituting a cup of black tea
or instead of coffee or eating an orange instead of a candy bar could increase
a person's phytochemical intake for the day without even changing the feeling of fullness.
Over time, replacing more pre-packaged snacks with fresh produce or low-sugar grains
could become a habit that fights obesity and disease" they said.

"We want to encourage people to go back to the whole sources of
food, the non-processed foods whenever possible," the researchers
said. "That would be the bottom line for anyone, regardless of age
and body size, keep going back to the purer plant-based foods.
Remember to eat the good quality food first."