Introducing secondary plant substances and trace elements
You read about them in each nutrition-based article, but what exactly are secondary plant substances and trace elements? Exactly this, we will discover in today’s post.
Until recently, we all still thought that fruits and vegetables were so healthy just because of their vitamins, minerals and fiber. But more and more studies refute this thesis – the secondary plant substances also seem to play their part.
Almost everyone knows today about the importance of vitamins and trace elements. Most are also familiar with the fact that they are essential for our health.
In relation to plant foods, however, they always occur together with another group of substances: the secondary plant substances.
Although their name sounds bulky and subordinate, they are still indispensable. Nevertheless, they were considered unimportant for a long time.
You just ate them when you ate healthy, vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables; they were just included!
Scientists only discovered much later that the secondary plant substances themselves have a much greater value on its own.
Does a lot help a lot?
The short answer to this question is: With vegetables and fruit, yes!
Today we know that plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, seeds, nuts and legumes are not so healthy despite, but because of the many secondary plant substances.
The rule “a lot helps a lot” applies exceptionally, because the more fruits, herbs, lettuce and above all vegetables we eat every day through our diet, the healthier and longer we live.
For example, a study by the University College in London was able to clearly demonstrate the relationship between daily fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of death.
Over 65,000 people took part. Some ate one serving of vegetables a day, others three to five and some even seven servings and more.
The results were astonishing. The risk of dying in the observed period of seven years was around 42 percent higher for those who disregarded plants than for those who ate seven or more servings daily.
The following table shows the risk of early death in regards to the amount of fruit and veggie consumption in percentage:
1 serving or less a day: highest risk
1 to 3 servings a day: 14 percent lower risk
3 to 5 servings a day: 29 percent lower risk
5 to 7 servings a day: 36 percent lower risk
7 plus servings a day: 42 percent lower risk
Secondary plant substances: the secret weapons of plants
Scientists estimate that there are around 100,000 different secondary plant substances in nature. However, scientists only investigate around 10,000 known forms at the moment.
All plants, every fruit, and every herb carry a very specific combination of several hundred substances. And every one of them has a specific purpose.
For example, flavonoids color fruits in the most delightful shades and give them a seductive effect. Mustard oil glycosides make radish and mustard spicey and protect them from predators, while carotenoids protect plants from UV rays.
We owe the fact that many of these substances are also valuable to us thanks to our biological adaptation to natural nutrition.
In the past, the vast majority of the human diet consisted of plants. Our ancestors ate what was currently available – and that was mainly fruits, roots, leaves, tubers and many other vegetable treats.
Above all, the diet was varied, colorful, and it was adapted to the seasons.
Over time, our organism has adjusted to the abundant phytonutrients and even learned to use them. Many secondary plant substances are considered antibacterial or antiviral.
Others train our immune system or support vitamins in their effect or even act like on their behalf. One example is beta-carotene, which we can encounter in large quantities in yellow or orange vegetables. The human body can convert it to the required vitamin A.
Only strong in the natural network
But research into the secondary plant substances is still in its infancy. Attempts to isolate individual forms and, thereby, increase their effectiveness almost always failed.
As of today, the solution is not a single substance, but the natural interplay between them and the vitamins and trace elements that we naturally find in fruits, vegetables, herbs, seeds and tubers.
What are trace elements?
The trace elements belong to the vital substances and are a subset of the mineral substances. They bear their name because they only occur in very small quantities, in traces, in the body.
Nevertheless, they are essential for us, because they are involved in almost everything in our organism.
The functions of trace elements
For us, ten different trace elements are important and, therefore, vital: chromium, cobalt, iron, iodine, copper, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, silicon and zinc.
Their functions are very diverse, and here are a few examples:
Zinc contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system, as well as to a normal acid-base balance. Zinc also helps maintain normal skin, hair and nails.
Selenium ensures normal thyroid function, contributes to healthy sperm production and, in addition to iron, folic acid, copper, zinc, vitamins B12 and B6, vitamins C and D, is also important for the immune system.
Iron is necessary for the transport of oxygen in the body since it contributes to the formation of red blood cells. But iron also has a function in cell division.
The need for trace elements
Nobody can say exactly which amount of which trace element each individual needs. Similar to the vitamins, there is, however, a recommendation for minimum care.
This ensures that in the long term no drastic deficiency diseases such as anemia or goiter develop. However, these recommendations are only aimed at healthy adults without increased need.
People in certain life situations, e.g. pregnant women, seniors, chronically ill, and people under increased stress (mental or physical stress, environmental toxins, etc.) have an increased need for trace elements.
If we do not consume enough trace elements in our diet over a long period of time, this can lead to a deficiency.
There are several reasons for this. While I was still living in Europe, I read someplace that certain soils in parts of Europe, but especially in Germany, are poor in the trace element selenium.
For this reason, plants that grow on it also contain little selenium. There is also a lack of natural iodine in the soil of many places occurring.
Furthermore, climate change seems to reduce the number of trace elements in our soil and food altogether.
In the past, we automatically ingested these trace elements through our food. Today the lack already begins in the soil and, therefore, also on our plates.
If you have questions regarding secondary plant substances and trace elements or want to add something, then, please, leave a comment below. We are always looking forward to helping you out and reading your contributions.
In the meantime, I want to thank you for your loyalty, bravery and existence, dear co-creator.
Through your mere being, you actively contribute to the expansion of our planet, so we can reach a higher dimension for the greater good of all.
You are highly appreciated, unique and endlessly loved. ~Namaste~