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Cancer and Healthy Eating Blog

by CarolineH

Recipes and nutrition tips
21 August 2012 at 16:33

Nutrition - Phytochemicals

Hi everyone,

As promised last week this blog is going to be about phyto chemicals. I have a feeling I may have got a bit technical here, so if you need me to explain any of it in more detail then please let me know.

So why I am talking to you about phytochemicals? Well  it is an area that has been well researched over recent years and the research continues as more and more of these phytochemicals are being discovered. My intention is to deal with the well known or familiar ones, ones that visitors frequently ask me about.

The best way to describe Phyto chemicals are as biologically active compounds which are found in plants. The word ‘Phyton’ is the Greek word for Plant.  Unlike some vitamins and minerals, we are not able to store them in our bodies – as some  phytochemicals have been shown to have very positive benefits particularly for people with cancer it is important we get a good supply of these in our diets, if we can. As with all nutritional research and trials nothing can be categorically proved but the phrase ‘has been shown’ can be taken as good evidence. It is worth remembering that the amount of money put into nutritional research is sadly lacking behind compared with the amount of money put into pharmaceutical/medical research. I do feel that the tide is slowly turning though as people are beginning to recognise the power of food and the enormously beneficial effects that it has on health. So when you read this bear that in mind.

The information is not intended to get you hung up on any one phytochemical as the ‘magic bullet’, as always it is a case of balance, (something I am quite passionate about),sensible approach and remembering that nutrients including phytochemicals generally work synergistically, i.e. as a team, one supporting the function of the other.

 So lets have a look at some of these phytochemicals, and the benefits they can provide to our bodies:

Resveratrol is a natural compound found in organic red grapes and red wine, also found in raspberries, blue berry and blackberry skins and black pepper, which enhances its absorption.

Its primary role within the plant is to prevent mould entering the fruit. Unfortunately the use of pesticides kills the mould so less resveratrol is produced in non organic fruits as there is less mould attack.

It ‘has been shown’ to stop tumour growth, to protect and repair DNA (the brain of the cell), prevent metastasis and finally to be anti inflammatory. Quite impressive. You can actually buy resveratrol supplements.

Related to Resveratrol we have Salvestrols which were discovered in 1998 as a result of research on Revestarol by Professor Dan Burke and Professor Potter Director of the Cancer Drug Discovery group.

Salvestrols have been found to be only toxic to cancer cells and non toxic to normal or healthy cells. The compound was given the name salvestrol from the Latin word ‘Salve’ meaning ‘to save’, quite clever, mind you they are professors!!!!. The key feature of these salvestrols is that they are only activated once inside the cancer cell which they arrest or kill.


As mentioned above, these phytochemicals work in synergy with other nutrients which is the case with salvestrols. The anti cancer effects are due, not to the plant chemicals themselves but what they turn to once inside the cancer cells triggered by the presence of a specific enzyme identified as CYP1B1. This enzyme is highly detected in tumour cells but undetected in a normal cells of the corresponding healthy tissue. This knowledge has been confirmed by at least 12 different studies by a number of eminent laboratories around the world. Not that we really need to know this but it is interesting.

Salvstrols appear in all fruits and vegetables but some contain more than others. Potter actually has gone as far as scoring the fruits and vegetables on a point system depending on their potency so to speak. To make the picture a little more complicated research discovered that different types of the same fruit contained different amounts, for example a golden delicious apple may not have the same content as a granny smiths (just an explanation). As I have explained non organic fruits and vegetable are higher because of the lack of pesticides etc. This list I found while researching shows the fruits and vegetables which are rich in salvestrol. It is quite extensive so here goes:

Fruits; Apples, all berry fruits, red grapes (and wine), oranges and tangerines and red currants.

Vegetables; Globe artichokes, aubergine, avocado, beansprouts, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauli, celery, olives, peppers, rocket and water cress.

Herbs; that have been shown to be rich are Basil, chamomile, dandelion, milk thistle (really good for the liver) mint, parsley (very underrated, I always think that parsley should be so much more than a garnish because of its health benefits), rosemary, sage and finally thyme.

So, quite a good variety and one thing that struck me when I was typing this was the different coloured fruits and vegetables. We have discussed the importance of a good colourful plate of food before, so here is another reason for trying to achieve that. I googled Salvestrol rich recipes and managed to download a booklet of them. I am doing a walk this evening and I am going to try one of the recipies out and if it is popular I will post it as a new blog for you tomorrow. There is some opinion that you cannot get enough salvestrol from diet alone and a supplement has been manufactured. This is obviously an option that you may like to look into but do not take it without consulting your oncologist first. The supplement has however been shown to be very safe because it is a natural extract from organic foods. If you do not want to go down that road then simply keep eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetable if you can, knowing that they have multiple health benefits, some we have covered before including that fact that they are alkaline forming, rich in vitamins and minerals will give the body vitality and are easy to obtain.

I hope this all makes sense and it isnt as clear as mud! I will post the recipe tomorrow after I have done the talk tonight.



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