8th GOVEG Asia Magazine

100% Vegan Beauty Products Delivered to Your Home

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An App with a Purpose

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Double Mushroom Gourd Roll

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Every Vegan Mom Has a Different Start

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Finding Vegan Food in Local Eateries

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Fruitful Living that Takes Running to a New Height

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Healthy, Tasty Raw Food Recipes

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Low Fat Vegan Diet for a Healthy Immune System

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Macau’s Vegan Culture: A Blend of New and Old School Approaches

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Making Your Own Garden in the City

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Plant-Based Diet: Phytochemicals and Health Benefits

by Maitree  Suttajit Dr. Suttajit was born in 1939, and has been a Buddhist and vegetarian/vegan since 1981. An Emeritus Professor, Biochemist and nutritionist teaching and doing research at Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Thailand. Retired in 2001, followi

Rediscovering Japan’s Plant Eating Traditions

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Sichuan Style Dan Dan Noodles

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Sichuan Style Sour & Spicy Flat Noodles

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Stir-fried Lotus Root with Ginger

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The Best Vegan Meals You Can’t Miss in Seoul

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Vegan Travel 101

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Zucchini and Mushroom Soup

  BY:  Luo Wen Hui |PHOTO:Lao Mian Low Fat Vegan Diet for a Healthy Immune System   Ingredients:  (serve 2) Agricus Blazei Murrill mushrooms 4 pcs Yellow Fungus 6g zucchini 300g figs 2 pcs (big size) walnuts 2 pcs red dates (stoned) 2 pcs

by Maitree  Suttajit

<About the Author> Dr. Suttajit was born in 1939, and has been a Buddhist and vegetarian/vegan since 1981. An Emeritus Professor, Biochemist and nutritionist teaching and doing research at Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Thailand. Retired in 2001, following as a visiting professor at Faculty of Science, Mahasarakham University and Dean at Faculty of Medical Science, University of Phayao, Thailand. Research and interest in biochemistry of natural products, cancer, medicinal plants.

Plant-based diets focus on foods from plants including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Foods from plants are mostly eaten by  vegetarians or vegans and health-concerned persons. Globally, plant-based eating has been increasing in popularity, especially in Europe and America, but mostly in Asian countries such as India, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. Plants are the best source of phytochemicals which are essential for the prevention of unhealthy aging and  non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including cancer, cardiovascular disease (heart attack and strokes), hypertension, chronic respiratory illness, diabetes, chronic kidney disease,  Alzheimer's disease, cataracts, and others.

 

In the science of nutrition, phytochemicals are not included as nutrients in human diets. They are separately called natural phytonutrients which are biologically active substances in plants and are good for our health.  There are more than ten thousand different phytonutrients in our daily plant-derived  foods. Naturally, their biological functions are to protect plants against invasion, disease, and infection from microbes and pests and environmental stressors. Chemically, they are found to be antioxidants, polyphenols, bioflavonoids, carotenoids, thiols, phytosterols, prebiotics (needed for friendly probiotic bacteria) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), etc.

Some compounds in certain herbs and mushrooms may be toxic and fatal. However, most of them are safe and traditionally consumed by Asian populations. Therefore, in recent decades, they have been isolated or extracted to be commercially used as crude or purified products in powder, tablet and capsule form. 

 

Fig.1: Phytochemistry of medicinal plants.

Phytochemicals are not essential nutrients and are not required by the human body for sustaining life, but have important properties to prevent or to fight some common diseases.

Many of these benefits suggest a possible role for phytochemicals in the prevention and  treatment of disease,  Because of this property; many researchers have been performed to reveal the beneficial health effects of phytochemicals.  The purpose of the present review is to provide  an overview of the  extreme Phytochemicals are not essential nutrients and are not required by the human   body for sustaining life, but have important properties to prevent or to fight some common diseases.

Plant based diet benefits have been reported and encouraged for health promotion.

The phytochemicals contained in plants are important in protecting against several diseases.

As shown in Table 1, the most common phytochemicals in the plant kingdom are a group of polyphenols which are diversified into many subgroups such as phenolic acids, flavonoids, isoflavones, flavones, flavonols, flavanones and flavanonols.

Polyphenols act biologically against free radicals, glycation (sugar-induced aging process), unfriendly bacteria and parasites.  Free radicals originate internally in our cellular mitochondria and from our metabolism and also from external sources such as air pollution, smoke, UV light and meaty foods.  Free radicals oxidize our DNA and fat in our cells, leading to cellular damage, cell death, DNA mutation and cancers.  For this reason antioxidant compounds including beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and plant polyphenols are certainly required in our daily diet to remove free radicals and protect our cells from oxidative damage. 

Table 1: Some common plants, their phytochemicals and biological functions [1-7]

Food grains, fruits and vegetables

Phytochemicals mostly found

Biological actions and functions

Beans and Seeds

Beans: Soybeans, mungbeans,

 

Flavonoids (isoflavones)
Phytic acid, saponins, proteins

Antioxidants , phytoestrogen

Protease inhibitors

Whole grain wheat, oats, barley,  rye, and oat flours

Vit. E, oryzanol, non-digestible fiber, oligosaccharides

Antioxidants , prebiotics help probiotic microbe growth in colon preventing constipation

Seeds: Flax, perilla, chia

PUFA: Omega-3 and-6 fats Rosmarinic acid

Anti-inflammation/ inflammation Antioxidants, help blood flow

Pigmented color rice (brown, black, purple  and red)

Anthocyanin, Proanthocyanidin

Antioxidants

Anti-inflammation

Spices

Tumeric

Curcuminoids (yellow pigment)

Antioxidants

Anti-inflammation

Anti-ulcer of stomach and G.I. tract.

Licorice root

Glycyrrhizin

Antioxidants

Ginger, mint, basil, sage, basil, caraway

Gingerols
Monoterpenes (limonene)

Antioxidants

Anti-inflammation

Allium vegetables
(garlic, onions, chives, leeks)

Allyl sulfides, quercetin

Antimicrobial, cholesterol reducer

Help high blood pressure

Vegetables:

Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower,
cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, turnips, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), kohlrabi

Indoles/glucosinolates
Sulfaforaphane
Isothiocyanates/thiocyanates
Thiols

Anti-cancer activity

Carcinogenesis inhibitor

Solanaceous vegetables: Tomatoes, peppers.

Lycopene and  carotenoids

Antioxidants against prostate gland cancer and other types of carcinoma.

Umbelliferous vegetables: Carrots, celery, cilantro, parsley, parsnips.

Carotenoids
Phthalides
Polyacetylenes

Antioxidants

Anti-inflammation

Pumpkin

Beta-carotene

Antioxidants

Fruits

Citrus fruits: Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, tamarind

Monoterpenes (limonene)
Carotenoids, vitamin C

Antioxidants, eye health, immunity

Grapes, berries, cherries, apples, ,water melon, pomegranate

Polyphenols and flavonoids: Ellagic acid, quercetin, etc

Antioxidants

Mango

Carotenoids, fiber

Help eye function and digestion

Beverages

Teas (red, brown, green), chocolate from cocoa fruit

Polyphenols:Flavanols (catechin and epicatechin)

Antioxidants against free radicals and carcinogenesis

Coffee from coffee bean

Caffein

Nerve stimulant, anti-anxiety agent

Red wine  from grape

Proanthocyanidin, polyphenols

Antioxidants

 

 

Fig. 1 Garlic and onion contain allyl sulfides and quercetin

 

Fig. 2 Various rainbow colorful vegetables and fruits containing diverse photochemicals

 

Fig. 3 Bok choy or Chinese cabbage a member of Cruciferae  family containing  vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and selenium

 

Fig. 4 Whole rice grains with different colors of black, purple, red and yellow highly containing bioflavonoid antioxidants.

 

There is a large amount of evidence suggesting that foods high in phytochemicals could reduce the risk of many chronic non-communicable diseases and unhealthy aging.  Due to the presence and benefits of phytochemicals, plant-based foods have been increasingly recognized as functional foods, which will improve a person’s nutritional profile and health.

 

From the above data, the selection of plants with high phytonutrients is quite simple. We choose with our own sight! Most of the vegetables and fruits have beautiful and shiny colors like a rainbow spectrum from the dark colors (purple, violet and blue) to the bright ones  (green, yellow, orange and red). The plant pigments are what give them their distinctive colors. For example, anthocyanin has blue/purple/violet colors; proanthocyanidin/lycopene are darkened red; and beta-carotene is intense orange/bright yellow. You should try to get the healthy veggie materials as fresh, organic and not over-cooked as possible.

 

A common question is how much plant-based food we should consume to improve our health. The answer will not be the same for all individuals, due to our different behaviors and lifestyle. Perhaps the answer depends on your daily food and health situation. First, we should learn what kind of diet is good for our health. To get what is good for us, we have to reduce or avoid what is bad for us.

 

Epidemic research has revealed that a diet high in green veggies brings out healthiness and a happy, longer life, while a diet high in red meats increases the chances of disease and suffering unhealthy aging. Most people eat only for the delicious taste and flavour, not for quality and health. They may forget that a diet should be a healthy thing and just look at a diet as an easy and quick thing. This leads to eating fast foods like burger, pizza, sandwich and French fries.

 

So to achieve optimum health, we must eat  the  right and proper kind and amount of cereals, vegetables and fruits. According to the Harvard Health Eating Plate visual guide, a healthy plant-based meal should properly consist of approximate portions of vegetables (35%), fruits (15%), whole grains (25%), healthy protein (20%), and healthy oils (5%).  Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or obesity.

 

Finally, whole plant diets are much more health beneficial than their isolated and extracted products as dietary supplements.