Posts Tagged ‘phytonutrients’

Olive oil may help fight disease

January 24, 2010

Most health experts agree one of the best dietary fats to use regularly is extra-virgin olive oil. This oil, a mainstay in the Mediterranean Diet, is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and also contains disease-fighting phytonutrients.

Scientific studies now indicate these properties of extra-virgin olive oil may provide protection against disease.

For example, researchers writing in Journal of Nutrition found two biophenols found in extra-virgin olive oil — protocatechuic acid and oleuropein — prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol. LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol because when it oxidizes it can deposit on artery walls.

Other research indicates olive oil may help fight breast cancer. Researchers reporting in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention found that among residents of Northern Italy those who consumed higher amounts of raw salad vegetables and olive oil had significantly reduced risk of breast cancer. Other studies have indicated extra-virgin olive oil can reduce the risk of some cancers, such as colon cancer, by influencing the metabolism of the intestines.

Olive oil contains 77 percent monounsaturated fat with only 9 percent polyunsaturated fat. Other good sources of monounsaturated fat include almonds and avocados.

While most other dietary oils are virtually absent of phytonutrient phenols, extra-virgin olive oil, obtained from the whole fruit using the cold-press technique, is very high in phenols. Other sources include fruits, vegetables, cocoa, and red wine.

Extra-virgin also is the tastiest and has less than 1 percent natural acid. It is best consumed raw on salads or used in low-heat cooking. Though the polyunsaturated portion is relatively low, this fat is subject to oxidation at high heat, and heat also may destroy the valuable phytonutrients in the oil.

Rootin’ tootin’ summer salad

June 29, 2009

When we left off last we were cooking, but raw foods are important too. Many health experts agree you should eat some raw food every meal.


Here’s a simple salad that doesn’t involve washing lettuce!  And it’s packed with health-enhancing phytonutrients. You’ll need:


3 medium carrotsBeets+

1 green or other tart apple

1 big lime

2 tbs fresh ginger root

1 medium-small beet, peeled

Sea salt


I use a regular old grater for this and add the ingredients to a salad bowl in order. Grate the carrots first using the coarse holes. Then core and grate the apple coarsely. 


Using the fine grate, zest all the peel off the lime and add to the salad. Then cut the lime in half and squeeze all the juice over the grated apple (this will help keep the apple from turning brown).


Grate the ginger fine, then grate the beet coarsely.


Toss, season with sea salt and set aside for a few minutes. After the salad rests the lime and vegetable juices will accumulate on the bottom of the bowl, so stir it up again before serving.


My friend Tim Van Riper caught this great sunset photo from his cabin overlooking the Wet Mountain Valley last weekend. Tim manages the Pueblo Chieftain’s website and is a talented photographer as well. For several years he’s been my crew chief for the pack-burro races.



Photo by Tim Van Riper

Photo by Tim Van Riper

An a-peeling way to lower skin cancer risk

March 9, 2009

orangesSeveral times a week I like to slice an organic orange thinly across the sections and eat some of the peel along with the slices.

Why eat citrus peel? Because a substance called d-limonene in citrus peels may help lower the risk of skin cancer.

And why organic? Some conventional citrus may have been genetically engineered to remove limonene, which is a bitter phytonutrient, in an effort to develop sweeter fruit for the consumer. In addition, if you’re eating citrus peels you’ll expose yourself to less pesticide residue if you eat organic.

Limonene has proven to be safe and to also have chemopreventive effects against other types of cancer, including breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

Another way I eat citrus peel is a cold grapefruit soup. I chop up a grapefruit, peel some of the fruit and toss it and some of the peel into a food processor or high-powered blender. A little honey will take the edge off it.

Hedging peppers against future uncertainties

October 14, 2008
Cubanelle peppers from Larga Vista Ranch are a special fall treat.

Cubanelle peppers from Larga Vista Ranch are a tasty fall treat.

A recent purchase of a bushel of Cubanelle red peppers from Larga Vista Ranch seemed a bit extravagant at $40. But then considering that winter is on the way, along with the possibility of socioeconomic collapse, perhaps the peppers were a hedge against future uncertainties in the vegetable commodities market.

The Cubanelle variety was developed in Italy, but is also apparently favored in Caribbean cooking. It is nearly as fat as a bell pepper, but longer. It has an intense flavor, which tends toward sweet rather than hot.

The plan: Freeze most of the peppers, dry some, and eat as many as possible in the meantime. These peppers are so intensely red that they are surely packed with phytonutrients. The flavor of the Cubanelle speaks fall in a way that can only be experienced through the smell of these peppers roasting or dehydrating in the oven.

Thus far they have been great in chile con carné, omelets and salads. They are fantastic roasted. I’ve put several dozen away in the freezer after slicing them lengthwise, gutting them and placing them in freezer bags. I’ve also successfully dried these peppers in the oven at 170 degrees with the door left ajar for about four hours. The only problem is I have not been able to actually store any peppers this way because they are eaten almost as soon as they are removed from the oven.

The bitter truth about weedy vegetables

July 16, 2008
I planted this patch of arugula in 2007. It came back this spring after a hard winter and is taking over the greens patch. I routinely cut arugula in the morning and sauté it with onions for a omelet filling, along with jack cheese.

I planted this patch of arugula in 2007. It came back this spring after a hard winter and is taking over the greens patch. I routinely cut arugula in the morning and sauté it with onions for a omelet filling, along with jack cheese.

Researchers in Europe are adding a nutritional twist to the term “weedeater.” Scientists studying health-promoting properties of wild and weedy vegetables believe these plants may be an important previously overlooked factor in the Mediterranean Diet of southern Italy and Spain.

The Mediterranean Diet is high in fruits, vegetables and olive oil, and generally follows a balanced consumption of unrefined carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Scientists already have identified monounsaturated fats and phytonutrients found in olive oil as important components to this healthy style of eating.

Now researchers speculate phytonutrients found in more than 100 species of uncultivated vegetables may also play a significant role in the diet. Residents of this region traditionally gather wild vegetables from the surrounding countryside, especially during the spring months

According to ethnobotanist Dr. Andrea Pieroni, of the United Kingdom’s University of Bradford, many weedy vegetables are known for their bitterness, a trait also associated with high levels of phytonutrients. When consumed by humans, these phytonutrients may have powerful antioxidant effects that could help fight cardiovascular disease and cancer.

While it is impractical for most people to pick vegetables from the wild, some cultivated and domestic vegetables may be distant cousins to these wild plants. Some of these domestic relatives to wild plants may include mustard greens, dandelion, mache, and arugula — all bitter greens commonly found in grocery stores.

In the case of arugula, now common in many U.S. groceries and known as “rocket” by the British, a domestic species has been cultivated since ancient Roman times, according to Dr. Pieroni.

Mache has long been gathered and used in salads and is known as “cornsalad” or “lambs tongue” by the British, says Dr. Pieroni. In recent decades it has been cultivated in southern Europe, France and the United States. “The market of this salad weed has increased very much and it is known as one of the important vegetables in central Europe,” says Dr. Pieroni.

As for dandelions, which many people know as pesky lawn weeds, it’s important they not be consumed from lawns or gardens where chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides have been applied. A person should also be sure to correctly identify this or any other wild plant before consuming it.