All-rounder for health: Secondary plant substances protect the human body
When it comes to health, phytonutrients in fruits, cereals, vegetables or legumes are real all-rounders. They can lower cholesterol and are supposed to protect against cancer, among other things. Those who eat a varied diet benefit the most.
Secondary plant substances with numerous functions
Plants are not only important suppliers of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and trace elements, they also contain secondary plant substances. Such substances can be found in many different forms in many plants. For example, as bitter substances in grapefruit or orange. Or as yellow, orange, red or blue dyes in apples, tomatoes, carrots, grapes or cherries. Furthermore, they are contained as flavorings in spices, herbs and salads and give horseradish its spiciness. Depending on their chemical structure and the function they have in plants, the substances are divided into different groups, such as carotenoids, sulfides, phytosterols, flavonoids and many more. Researchers assume that there are around 60-100,000 of these ingredients in food, only a fraction has been analyzed so far. Many phytonutrients are healthy. In a current report, the dpa news agency gives an overview of how the protective substances work and which foods contain a particularly large number of them.
Risk of cancer, heart attack and stroke is reduced
Numerous studies in recent years have shown that such substances also have many positive effects in humans. For example, they reduce the risk of cancer. Scientists believe that the plant substances reduce the risk of lung, breast and colon cancer, among other things. Hartmut Henß from the Cancer Center of the University Medical Center Freiburg (CCCF) said according to dpa: "Probably many of these substances act as antioxidants in the human body." Some groups of phytochemicals, such as phytosterols, are considered effective for cardiovascular diseases because they are natural They are lowers in blood pressure and cholesterol. Some substances are associated with special hypoglycemic, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering or anti-thrombotic effects. Studies have also shown that the flavonoids also contained in cocoa beans can help to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. They also have anti-inflammatory effects, protect the body from harmful radicals and help to strengthen the immune system.
Different types of fruits and vegetables on the table
"From today's point of view, it doesn't help to eat a substance four or five times a day, about five times a day just tomatoes," says Henß. Such individual effects are usually not scientifically proven in humans, at most in animal experiments or through tests with the pure substances in the laboratory. There are many indications that the different plant substances have a mutually reinforcing effect. "There are studies that show that the greater the botanical diversity in nutrition, the greater the health benefits," said Prof. Bernhard Watzl from the Max Rubner Institute in Karlsruhe. Therefore, a colorful mix of many different types of fruit and vegetables and other plants should be on the menu. Some plants contain a particularly large number of the healthy substances. "Local seasonal vegetables such as carrots, spinach, broccoli or cabbage are common carriers of secondary plant substances," said Harald Hoppe, top organic chef and nutrition expert for the Inform campaign. When it comes to preparation, there is also a lot to be said for variety, and above all, fruit and vegetables more often also eat unprocessed, as Watzl advises. Peeling or heating causes many of the healthy substances to be lost.
Diet with lots of fruits and vegetables
In order to absorb secondary plant substances and other important plant compounds in sufficient quantities, the German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends five servings or 650 grams of fruit and vegetables a day, of which about 400 grams as vegetables and lettuce and 250 grams as fruit. However, a research dispute has raged for years about exactly how much fruit and vegetables is advisable. However, nutrition experts agree that a diet that is also high in fiber thanks to a lot of fruits and vegetables contributes to stimulating digestion and reduces the risk of being overweight and obese. As a result, this reduces the risk of diabetes. One problem, however, is that most people don't even get five servings a day. According to Watzl, the average consumption of vegetables in Germany, for example, is only 124 grams per day. A delicious change could be a smoothie every now and then. There are many tips on the Internet that make delicious smoothies work. A good thing is a raw food platter, such as a raw food platter with sultanas and with dips or grilled vegetables. (ad)