Healthy eating is in fashion. Yes, more and more people are getting on the train of good
nutrition. But what makes us healthy with what we eat? In the daily consumption of food, we manage to ingest all the necessary nutrients
to be able to live (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins), but not
only these substances are capable of helping us to be healthy from what we
eat. In food there are not only nutrients, a food is made up of
many substances in greater or lesser concentration and today I am going to talk about a group
of these known as ” bioactive compounds “.
What are bioactive compounds?
These compounds are found naturally in food but are NOT
considered nutrients . So what do they bring us? These substances are able to
perform beneficial effects in preventing certain diseases suffer and even improving the treatment of certain diseases. However, there are also some of them with a toxic nature for the individual. one
Today, there is a lot of research on these substances in many, many fields.
We can find research in fields such as obesity, high
cholesterol levels , blood pressure, urinary tract infections and even cancer. Interesting,
5 bioactive compounds from the group of phytochemicals
Today I am going to talk about 5 bioactive compounds from the group of phytochemicals
that have shown beneficial effects on certain pathologies.
1. Phytosterols and hypercholesterolemia 2
The phytosterols are a group of bioactive coming from plants and are
necessary for various functions of the plant cells. Its structure is
very similar to that of cholesterol , which we can only obtain from foods of animal origin
and whose consumption in excess produces hypercholesterolemia .
Today more than 250 types of phytosterols have been identified . The main source from
which to obtain them are vegetable oils where I would like to highlight the
high oleic sunflower oil and olive oil (especially the extra virgin), but we can also
find them in nuts and whole grains , and to a lesser extent in fruits and
Phytosterols and their effect on cholesterol
Now to the point, how does it help us with high cholesterol? These phytosterols are able to enter the cells of the intestine, like cholesterol, and compete with it to bind to the same receptors, in such a way that the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the body is decreased.
On the other hand, the amount that we obtain from what we eat is insufficient
to see effects, however, the industry has elaborated certain foods that contain
these substances and together with a balanced diet we would arrive at the
necessary amount to observe healthy effects.
Lycopene and prostate cancer. 3
The lycopene is a bioactive compound from the group of Carotenoids which is
characterized by reddish.
In recent years, its effect on
prostate cancer prevention has been much discussed , but finally in 2019 a systematic review and meta-analysis (the
type of study with the highest scientific category) published in Nature (the highest
category journal) was carried out. scientist) which concluded that the more lycopene in the diet, the lower the risk of prostate cancer in patients at high risk of developing the tumor.
This compound can be found in foods such as tomatoes and watermelons. It
should be noted that it has a better absorption if the food is crushed and mixed
with healthy fats (EVOO, avocado, etc.) due to the nature of the compound.
Theobromine and blood pressure. 4
The theobromine is the group of alkaloids . Humans have a lot of facility
to absorb it and you are going to like its origin … CHOCOLATE!
It is found in greater amounts in dark chocolate (against more% better) and together with
two other groups of bioactive agents also present in dark chocolate (catechins and
procyanidins), improvements in blood pressure and even an increase
in HDL cholesterol have been observed ( the good) in healthy population.
But beware! For us it is a very healthy compound, on the other hand, this is the one that
causes toxicity in our dear friends the dogs and therefore they should avoid
Polyphenols and proanthocyanidins in urinary tract infections. 5
Here I am talking about two groups of different compounds but in this case we will
consider them as 1 since we are going to talk about a single food: red cranberries
This food has been used for many years for the prevention of
urinary tract infections in women in order to avoid the abuse of antibiotics and prevent
bacteria from creating resistance to them.
A systematic review and meta-analysis indicates that cranberries are capable of
reducing the risk of urinary infection up to 26% in women and it is believed that the
main compounds capable of carrying out this action are the polyphenols and
proanthocyanidins that this food contains.
Resveratrol and energy expenditure and metabolic profile. 6
The resveratrol is a compound of the group of polyphenols . It is of natural origin,
specifically from red grapes, blackberries, peanuts and red wine. It is the famous compound for which there are doctors who recommend a glass of wine a day, a recommendation that I personally advise against.
The effects of this compound, according to a double-blind and crossover clinical study (good
scientific quality) in obese men, were: an increase in energy expenditure, a
reduction in inflammatory markers (common in obesity), and a reduction in plasma fatty acids and glycerol (which form triglycerides).
As an option to consume this compound, I recommend the consumption of the foods
mentioned previously and its supplementation would even be valuable.
I hope this article has been useful to you and has opened your mind a little more
about food and its complexity due to the wide variety of substances that