Mesonutrients: The Hidden Power Inside Superfoods
Have you heard the new buzz word? Mesonutrients.
They are the third category of nutrients, which differ considerably from micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals) and macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat).
Mesonutrients are seen as the key to unlocking the health benefits of superfoods; they are the active constituents (or components) found within the superfood.
At The Whole Journey, we love superfoods—anyway we can maximize nutrition is a win for us! In Greek, meso means “middle” or “inside.”
Below, we’ll discuss our five favorite examples of mesonutrients, including:
- Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG)
- And Lycopene
These mesonutrients are the active ingredients found in many fruits, teas, and herbs.
5 Mesonutrients Found In Many Fruits, Teas And Herbs
Curcumin is a polyphenol and the active ingredient found in turmeric. Curcumin has benefits for the entire body.
There have been clinical trials involving curcumin and cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, metabolic syndrome, pain, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s, and general inflammation.
Curcumin has been shown, in research, to increase the number of antioxidants in the body while reducing free radicals. We discuss this in much further depth in our show on using antioxidants to reduce inflammation.
To increase the potency of curcumin and its benefits, it’s recommended to take it with a meal containing a fat source.
2. Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG)
EGCG is the most abundant catechin in tea such as green, black and matcha tea. EGCG is a potent polyphenol shown in research studies to have anticancer properties. Green tea and matcha also include phenolic acids and catechins, both of which are flavonoids.
EGCG has been shown to have protective effects against multiple disease states, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and insulin resistance.
Additionally, EGCG helps slow down the rate at which we absorb starch, which is important for those with poor glycemic control or have fluctuating blood sugar levels after a meal. Because of this, it’s best to consume your green tea in small amounts with your meal.
To get the maximum benefits of EGCG, we recommend finding a high-quality tea source that does not include any chlorine, pesticides and is organic. We love Pique Tea for this reason.
If you are brewing tea, it’s recommended to steep it for 8-12 minutes to receive the maximum nutrient content.
Tea is best consumed between meals or in small amounts during a meal. For those who are caffeine sensitive, it’s best to avoid green tea in the afternoon or evening hours.
Blackberries, purple sweet potatoes, and blueberries are all rich in vibrant color. They all include red, blue or violet flavonoid pigment called anthocyanin. Anthocyanin is a water-soluble mesonutrient which is an antioxidant that supports cognitive function along with the reduction of cardiovascular disease and the inhibition of cancer cell production.
Plants naturally produce anthocyanins to protect themselves against environmental factors, such as temperature changes and changes in light. In research, anthocyanins have been shown to have anticarcinogenic activity, as they act as antioxidants and induce cancer cell death. This phenomenon has been demonstrated in both human cell research as well as animal studies.
Research looking at cardiovascular disease and the consumption of foods rich in anthocyanin have shown promising results. Results showed that including foods such as blueberries and blackberries in your diet, even just once per week, was correlated with a reduction in cardiovascular symptoms.
In regards to brain health, anthocyanins have been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, which means these compounds directly benefit our brains in a positive way.
Goldenseal, Oregon grape, and barberry are all abundant in the bioactive compound called berberine. Berberine is yellow in color and is often used as a dye before it was known to be a potent herb which supports a healthy weight, blood sugar regulation, microbial balance, and cholesterol, to name a few.
Berberine is an interesting compound that acts by binding to a cell and then restructuring its function based on the cell's need.
Next, berberine ties itself with the molecules found within the cell, increasing its potency (and benefits) two-fold.
Berberine is a potent antiviral and anti-bacterial; it has been shown to reduce fatty liver as well as reduce unwanted microorganisms. These can include bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses, making berberine a very functional supplement and a powerful choice in SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and candida protocols.
Lycopene is a carotenoid (which gives fruits and vegetables their red and pink colors) and phytochemical found in tomatoes and other similar red-colored vegetables and fruits. This antioxidant is supportive of cardiovascular health, and mitigates Candida and inflammation—it is one of the most well-known mesonutrients.
For the typical American, processed tomato products (ketchup, pizza sauce and tomato juice) count for 80% of the lycopene in their diet. Shoot for organic, real tomatoes vs. the processed variety. Other lycopene-rich foods include grapefruit, red cabbage, watermelon, and papaya.
Lycopene is a fat-soluble compound, similar to curcumin; therefore if you consume foods containing lycopene with a fat, you will increase the bioavailability. In research, consuming high-lycopene foods with high-fat dressings rather than low-fat salad dressings showed an increase in bioavailability. For some, this could mean just adding avocado to their salad or meal.
Lycopene fights oxidative free radicals and helps prevent the development of certain chronic diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's. Additionally, it helps reduce pain caused by nerve and tissue damage.
Learn More About Food As Medicine For Healing The Gut
We already know that having a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants is good for you and that the specific foods mentioned above are healthy, but hopefully, you will now know a little bit more about why.
We talked a lot about ORAC values in a previous antioxidant episode. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It is the unit of measurement for how much antioxidants are within foods and the power of those antioxidants to extinguish toxins. Naturally, all of the mesonutrients we covered today have high ORAC values.
Supplements—that is, high-quality ones, can provide a more potent intervention and be a great addition. We recommend using berberine or curcumin either on a short-term basis or over a longer period of time, depending on your specific need. Berberine, for example, should be taken on a short-term basis (no longer than six weeks) if taking it for digestive health.
What do you think? Are you sold on mesonutrients and ready to add these foods to your weekly grocery list? Let us know in the comments below!
If you'd like to learn even more about how to use food as medicine to improve your health, watch our free webinar where we talk about our 5-step gut healing process.
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