The Multiple Health Effects of Plant Foods

The nutritional approach to health differs considerably from that of medicine for a number of reasons. The main difference is that nutrition aims to maintain health before it is lost, whereas medicine looks to treat symptoms once disease develops. In this respect, nutrition is akin to carefully topping up your car with oil to ensure that the engine functions as it should, whereas medicine intervenes only once the oil level drops and the oil light comes on the dashboard. At this point medicine removes the bulb from the warning lamp so the light is extinguished.


A less considered difference between nutrition and modern medicine however is the way in which the drug or nutrient affects the physiology of the body. In the case of the medicine, a single drugs is usually given in order to elicit a large modification to a single component in the body. This often causes rapid changes, a process associated with considerable side effects. In contrast nutrition uses whole foods containing many different compounds, that work in very diverse and synergistic ways to improve health slowly and subtly without causing side effects.

Red Wine

Red wine has very important medicinal properties. In particular, red wine can decrease the risk of developing both cancer and cardiovascular disease, and also has anti-obesogenic properties. However, it is not possible to identify a single component within the wine that causes these effects. Red wine is a complex mixture of many chemicals and the exact composition of red wine is not known. Resveratrol has been identified as providing some of the health effects, but other compounds, including ethanol, undoubtedly contribute to the multiple health effects of red wine.

Green Tea

Green tea, like red wine, is a complex mixture of many different phytochemicals. Green tea contains a number of catechin flavonoids as well as L-theanine and methylxanthines such as caffeine. These compounds may work synergistically to provide the known health effects of green tea that include weight loss, protection from cardiovascular disease and anti-cancer effects. For example catechins, caffeine and L-theanine have all been shown to contribute to the weight loss effects of green tea through synergistic interaction.

Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is extracted from olives through use of a mechanical press. In essence then the produce of this process is a liquified version of the original contents of the olive minus some of the cellular debris. Some extra virgin olive oils are unfiltered and this retains more of the cellular material than filtered versions. Olives and olive oil have multiple health effects because like red wine and green tea they are complex mixtures of phytochemicals and other substances that can improve health. In particular olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acid, triterpenoids and phenylethanoids such as oleuropein, ligustroside and oleacein, as well as flavonoids.

Synergism Within Synergism

Consuming red wine, green tea or olive oil can improve the health considerably if eaten in isolation. The synergism of the nutrients contained within the foods acts in multiple ways in the body to produce subtle and side-effect free improvements in health over the long term. However, combining the three foods together produces an effect an order of magnitude greater that consuming the foods in isolation. The power of such synergistic effect is multiplied many fold each time a new healing food is added to the diet, and this explains the lack of disease in people who consume high quality diets regularly.


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