Mesonutrients – what are they?

colourful array of fresh veggies

2019 will be the year of the rise of the ‘mesonutrient’. We have all heard about macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), but for 2019 it’s all about mesonutrients.

If we look to the etymology of the words, ‘macro’, ‘micro’ and ‘meso’ find their origin in Greek. Macro- means big, micro- means small and meso- means literally inside. Mesonutrients are the active natural compounds found within foods that may have certain health benefits. These foods are the so called “Superfoods” and mesonutrients are the nutrients that are found in the superfoods that make them so super.

Let’s dive deeper into the most popular individual mesonutrients and their specific health benefits.

Curcumin

Curcumin is a plant-derived polyphenolic compound naturally found in turmeric. The yellow spice the focus of numerous plant foods/pharmacological/medical/analytical research worldwide for multiple health benefits. It has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Research has shown that curcumin can aid in the management of cardiovascular health, diabetes, depression, inflammatory conditions and it even might slow down the progression of some forms of cancer. For people who are not diagnosed with any health condition a relatively low dose can provide health benefits like lowering exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness.

Turmeric can be added and blended in soups, juices, smoothies, curries and stews. Or add some turmeric to scrambled eggs. Another popular way of consuming turmeric is drinking ‘Golden milk’ or also known as ‘Turmeric latte’. This is a traditional Indian drink containing turmeric, ginger, cinnamon with almond or coconut milk.

ECCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate)

Epigallocatechin gallate or ECCG has been recognised for beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. Green tea is the most known food source of ECCG but it can also be found in fruits, veggies, wine and chocolate.

Research showed that heavy tea drinkers have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and hypertension. A reduction in cardiovascular disease associated mortality was found for older adults who consume 5 cups or more of green tea on a daily base.

Anthocyanins

Anthocyanins are one of the most widespread families of natural pigments in the plant kingdom. These are responsible for the bright and attractive orange, red, purple, and blue colors of most fruits, vegetables, flowers and some cereal grains.

Anthocyanins have a high antioxidant capacity. The human body is under constant attack from oxidative stress. Free radicals scavenge the body to seek out other electrons so they can become a pair. This causes damage to cells, proteins and DNA. Antioxidants such as anthocyanins play an important role in supporting defense mechanisms against those free radicals.

Antioxidants help in the prevention neuronal diseases, cardiovascular illnesses, cancer, diabetes, inflammation, and visual health.

High concentrations of anthocyanins can be found in foods like berries, grapes, blood orange, aubergine and red cabbage.

Lycopene

Tomato and tomato-based products are the main dietary source of lycopene and account for over 80 % of lycopene intake in western countries. However watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricot, pink guava and papaya also significantly contribute to lycopene intake.

Multiple studies have indicated that a rich-tomato diet, seven servings or more per week, is associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular heart disease. Recent studies are researching if there’s a relationship between the intake of lycopene and the reduced risk for prostate cancer.

Saffronal

Saffron is a spice used in cooking and seasoning and is derived from the flower called Crocus sativus.

Saffronal, a compound of Saffron has been reported to have antioxidant properties; it is therefore helpful in maintaining healthy arteries and blood vessels and strengthening the blood circulatory system. It’s also known to have anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial to cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of heart diseases.

Saffron is often used in rice dishes such as risotto, paella or rice pudding.

There are a lot of supplements on the market for these so-called mesonutrients. Remember that supplements never should be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet. If you’re not suffering any medical condition low doses of mesonutritients can be obtained by consuming real foods.
If you’re considering the use of supplements, talk with your primary care provider first.

Lisa Scheepers

FFF Nutritionist

References

  1. Hewlings, S. J., & Kalman, D. S. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 6(10), 92
  2. Khurana, S., Venkataraman, K., Hollingsworth, A., Piche, M., & Tai, T. C. (2013). Polyphenols: benefits to the cardiovascular system in health and in aging. Nutrients, 5(10), 3779-827.
  3. Stintzing, F. C. and Carle, R.(2004). Functional properties of anthocyanins and betalains in plants, food, and in human nutrition. Trends Food Sci. Technol. 15(1):19–38.
  4. Basharat Y., Khalid G., Ali Abas W. & Preeti S. (2016) Health Benefits of Anthocyanins and Their Encapsulation for Potential Use in Food Systems: A Review, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 56(13), 2223-2230
  5. Thies F., Mills L., Moir S. and Masson L. (2017). Cardiovascular benefits of lycopene: fantasy or reality? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 76(2), 122–129
  6. Kamalipour, M., & Akhondzadeh, S. (2011). Cardiovascular effects of saffron: an evidence-based review. The journal of Tehran Heart Center, 6(2), 59-61.