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Bioactives, Keys to Health and Disease Prevention

Together they can be very beneficial in preventing non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Nutrients are not the only compounds found in foods, some have antinutrient activities (interfere with the absorption of other nutrients), others have health benefits such as prebiotics, and some are linked to disease prevention.

According to Aurora García Tejedor, director of the Master in Nutrition and Health at the International University of Valencia-Vio, bioactive compounds have properties that go beyond basic nutrition.

This means that they are not essential for life, but they are very useful in preventing non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Bioactive compounds are found in small amounts in foods of animal origin, but are mainly found in vegetables. Biostimulants of animal origin can be found in fatty acid compounds such as omega-3 in fish or conjugated linoleic acid in ruminant meat, dairy products and egg yolks.

In the case of vegetables, we find them mainly in phytochemicals, substances that help mainly in the survival of plants and that act as hormones, enzymes or simply provide color, aroma or flavor to a plant.

According to Nutrición Clínica y Dietética Hospitalaria, the function of phytochemicals is also to help the plant protect itself from free radicals, insects, parasites, viruses and damage in general.

For her part, VIU’s nutrition and health specialist confirms that, depending on their type, biostimulants can contribute in different ways to good health and disease prevention, which is why she has indicated the types of ingredients and diseases that help to control and prevent a good diet.

Contains Anticancer Properties: Among biostimulants, phytochemicals stand out terpenes for their antitumor properties, which are more prominent in leafy vegetables and soy derivatives, and thiols, found in cruciferous vegetables such as garlic and onion.

These compounds also have beneficial properties on liver/biliary tract function and studies have demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antitumor and antiviral activity.

These properties are found in plants such as olive tree, devil’s claw, valerian, gentian and ash because they contain iridoid active ingredients.

Here we also find phytoestrogens present in soy and some of its derivatives (flour, milk, tofu) and in smaller amounts in lentils and chickpeas.

Phytoestrogens have been linked to the prevention of certain hormone-dependent cancers in several studies.

Contribute to the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease

Other widely studied bioactives are the polyphenols found in fruits such as grapes and citrus fruits. In vegetables, such as beetroot and eggplant, or in legumes, such as lentils.

The effects of polyphenols are mainly due to their antioxidant properties.

These compounds have vasodilatory effects and are also capable of improving the lipid profile, offering anti-inflammatory effects, hence their contribution to cardiovascular diseases.

Help Lower Cholesterol

Phytosterols are naturally found in small amounts in many foods such as fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts, almonds and grains.

Phytosterols interfere with the absorption of cholesterol in the human intestine, resulting in lower cholesterol levels.

Helps to Protect the Skin

Flavonoid-type biofactors, responsible for the natural pigments found in plants, are partially responsible for the intense colors of fruits and vegetables. There are about 6,000 flavonoids that contribute to health by protecting the body from damage caused by oxidation . Factors such as ultraviolet light, environmental pollution, or chemicals in food.

“These protective compounds cannot be produced by the human body, so they must be obtained through food or supplements,” said García Tejedor.

Foods like grapes, citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, red onions, green tea, cocoa and spices like thyme and mint are rich in flavonoids.

There is a huge amount of scientific literature on the effect of bioactive components on various diseases.

However, it has not yet been possible to determine whether its benefits derive from its consumption as part of the usual diet, as functional foods, or whether it affects dietary patterns. It would be the case of following a vegetarian Mediterranean diet, with low energy consumption, among others.

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