Nutraceutical Products for Your Health

nutraceuticals

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Nutraceuticals are foods or food-derived compounds that provide both nutrition and pharmaceutical benefits. The word itself is an equal blend of both terms, but some nutraceuticals lean more closely to one end or the other of the food or pharmacy spectrum. Also known as functional foods or occasionally farmaceuticals, you’ll find many of the top nutraceuticals in your local grocery store. Others come in the form of bottled supplements in health food and nutrition shops.

If you’re buying supplements in pill form, be sure to read the label; nutraceutical labels are still in a legal gray area between food and medicine.

1. Lycopene occurs naturally in tomatoes, watermelons and a Vietnamese fruit called gac. This antioxidant may decrease your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, adult-onset diabetes and certain forms of cancer. It’s present even in concentrated tomato products such as ketchup and tomato paste, so it’s a good reason to enjoy an occasional treat of pizza or spaghetti.

2. Beta-carotene gives orange vegetables such as carrots, squash and sweet potatoes their rich hue. Lycopene and beta-carotene are both antioxidants, but they have slightly different effects in your body. Eat foods rich in beta-carotene to help neutralize free radicals throughout your body. However, eating too much of this pigment can turn your skin the same vivid orange it gives vegetables.

3. Fiber is technically not a nutrient because your body doesn’t digest it. It’s a vital component of your diet, though, and contributes to digestive health, weight maintenance, stable blood glucose levels and helps to lower LDL cholesterol. Fresh and dried fruits, leafy green vegetables and whole grains are typically good sources of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber.

4. Omega-3 fatty acids occur naturally in certain fish species and in some vegetable oils. Despite the fat in the name, these compounds lower your triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels, potentially decreasing your risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce inflammation for arthritis sufferers, although research is ongoing. Enjoying a wild-caught salmon steak or sprinkling flaxseed meal in your pancake mix will increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, but you can also find this nutraceutical as a food supplement in capsule form. You might also see it listed as fish oil, so read the nutraceutical label to make sure you know what you’re taking.

5. Tannins come from tea, wine and certain fruits. Pomegranates, persimmons and cranberries contain plenty of this family of tart compounds. They seem to play a role in urinary tract health, which is why you’ll often hear recommendations to drink cranberry juice to combat a bladder infection or kidney stone.

6. Catechins, the other major nutraceutical component in tea, have been hailed as protective agents against everything from cancers to cardiovascular disease. These compounds are also found in large concentrations in chocolate. According to a study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences, a high flavonoid intake helped protect the Panamanian population researchers studied from heart disease, stroke, cancer and adult-onset diabetes. While studies aren’t definitive, it’s a perfect reason to enjoy tea for breakfast and a bite of dark chocolate for dessert.

7. Isoflavones in soy products fall closer to the pharmaceutical end of the spectrum and can have powerful effects on the human body. Soy isoflavones may mimic hormones in your body and ease symptoms of menopause or perimenopause. Eat foods that naturally contain soy or soy-derived proteins to get the most nutraceutical benefit without separate supplementation of these powerful compounds.

8. Lactobacillus cultures in yogurt, kefir and other fermented dairy products that contribute to good digestive health. Also called probiotics, these nutraceuticals help you digest your food by keeping your gut flora healthy. The average person has three and four pounds of gut bacteria to aid digestion, so it’s important to keep them happy.

9. Cobalamin, also called vitamin B12, is vital for healthy blood formation and a healthy nervous system. While virtually every other vitamin and mineral is obtainable through a plant-based diet, cobalamin comes only from animal or bacterial sources. If you’re vegan, read nutraceutical labels on fortified cereals and food supplements to ensure that you’re getting enough of this essential nutrient.

10. Sulforaphane comes from young broccoli sprouts and seems to have very promising anti-cancer properties. All the cruciferous vegetables contain it, but broccoli is richest in this compound. This nutraceutical is currently under clinical trials to see if a concentrated extract of it belongs on pharmacy shelves as an anti-cancer drug.

Everything you eat has the potential to affect your health, but nutraceutical products promise to influence it directly. While a steady diet of any food is no substitute for vital medications, a healthy diet could reduce your need for future pharmaceutical treatments of chronic conditions.

About The Author:

Jessica is a specialist in nutraceutical labels and product label printing. When she is not writing for LightningLabels.com, you can find her cooking up a storm in her kitchen.

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