nutrients are only the tip of the iceberg of many hundreds of
nutrients found in our foods. The group of nutrients called
accessory nutrients are beneficial nutrients that your body
either can make or, if cannot, are not considered essential to
health. This is somewhat vague distinction, for it is not uncommon
that these non-essential food nutrients can make a difference
between disease and health.
words, body either can't always produce as much of those nutrients
as it needs, or benefits from their intake, or supplementation, in the way it
wouldn't be able to duplicate without it.
nutrients include digestive enzymes, phytochemicals and
non-essential minerals and vitamins.
complex, protein-based molecules, capable of initiating, mediating
and/or speeding up chemical reactions necessary for functioning of a
living organism. They usually remain unchanged during
and after the reaction. Vast majority of enzymes are catabolic,
assisting in breaking substances down into simpler elements, and the
rest is anabolic
- assisting in combining simpler elements into more complex
These two basic enzymatic processes constitute
On the mention of enzymes,
most people think of
They are contained in foods, and also produced "on demand" by the body.
Digestive enzymes help break
by adding to them water
molecule (hence their general name
hydrolases). Each of these three main groups includes a
number of more narrowly specified digestive enzymes.
But digestive enzymes
are only a tiny portion of all body's
metabolic enzymes. Many more
- over 3,000 types and millions of specific enzymes - are
produced by the body for breaking down, synthesis and
conversion of myriad of substances down to the cellular level. Most of them are very
narrowly specialized in regard to the substances they react with.
All enzymes are classified
into six groups, according to the type of chemical reactions they
mediate. In addition to
hydrolases, needed for digestion
(and also exerting anti-inflammatory action),
particularly important are
oxidoreductases (comprising oxidases and
dyhydrogenases) - catalyzing basic metabolic reactions, or serving
as free-radical quenchers
superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase - and
vital for protein synthesis and functioning of your
An enzyme consist of a
protein molecule and
which is often a vitamin,
or vitamin-related. Enzyme
cofactor, which is often a
mineral, is also needed for the enzymatic reaction to take place.
Most of the
health importance of
vitamins and minerals
is due to their role in enzymatic
activity as cofactors and coenzymes.
Obviously, mineral and vitamin deficiencies can directly affect
body's enzyme levels and efficiency.
enzymes, the biological process supporting life would simply stop.
In fact, all it takes is inhibition of a single key enzyme, shutting
down one of many vital metabolic pathways
pesticides kill by
blocking specific enzyme).
number of enzymes, it is virtually impossible to have an effective control of
body's enzymatic activity as a whole. Much fewer in numbers,
digestive enzymes alone are different story. While the body can
produce these enzymes, mainly in the pancreas, it
can become enzyme-deficient on low-enzyme diets, such as those
consisting mainly of cooked and processed foods. Digestive enzymes
contained in food are
very sensitive to heat,
and nearly all are destroyed in cooking,
often in food processing as well. In order to digest cooked foods,
your body has to produce all needed enzymes. It puts too much of enzyme-producing burden on the
pancreas, which can lead to its enlargement and exhaustion.
body's enzyme production declines naturally with aging, adding
digestive enzymes in supplemental form to your diet is recommended,
especially if your diet consists mainly of cooked and processed
in general can be significantly reduced by a number of enzyme-inhibiting
or enzyme-destroying factors. Excessive alcohol consumption inhibits
enzymes both, directly, by alcohol's own and action of its
metabolites, as well as indirectly, by impairing absorption of a
number of nutrients needed for enzymatic activity. It also depletes
antioxidant enzymes by significantly raising level of free radicals,
as well as detox enzymes - primarily those in the liver.
the liver stripped off of its detox protection for long enough to be
structurally and functionally destroyed by toxins illustrates well
the damage potential of inhibiting enzymatic activity.
Toxins from tobacco smoke
have similar effect, only the main target shifts from the liver to the
Number of medications
interfere with digestive drugs; antacids, for instance, by lowering
stomach acid inhibit activity of pepsin, needed to initiate protein
breakdown. Worse yet, many medications are actually designed to
inhibit particular enzyme, mainly those active at the cellular level;
that may alleviate particular symptom, but by inhibiting, possibly crippling the
enzyme-dependant metabolic pathway, is very likely - as we know all too
well - to
cause new health problems.
Not seldom, more serious
than symptoms they were designed to suppress.
Medications are also
generally toxic to the liver.
additives and processing agents, refined
sugar, excessive sun exposure,
and prolonged stress are also among the factors inhibiting or depleting
your metabolic and protective enzymes. Even some natural foods - in
fact, quite a few of them - inhibit digestive enzymes. Beans, legumes,
seeds and grains contain protease inhibitors, usually inactivated by
cooking. Since that, as mentioned, destroys their natural enzyme
content, sprouting offers better alternative.
Crucial importance of
proper enzyme function cannot be overemphasized as a factor in any health-related context. Lowered enzyme level literally suffocates
the body, making it much more vulnerable to a
Among accessory food nutrients that our body cannot make are
phytochemicals (also called phytonutrients, from Greek
phyton, for plant). Phytochemicals are a wide variety of
plant compounds that have nutritional value. Thousands have been identified so far,
but only a small number have been more thoroughly studied. The four major
groups of phytonutrients are polyphenols,
familiar essential nutrients that belong to phytochemicals are
The single most important - and
the largest - group of phytonutrients are
over 8,000 of them known. Not long ago they were considered
undesirable, being thought of as possibly decreasing the
availability of nutrients. In the aftermath of "French paradox"
(i.e. finding out about the lower rate of mortality from
cardiovascular causes in French people, despite their high average
consumption of vine), as a result of the subsequent research of
phenolic plant compounds, it has been confirmed that they have
generally health-protective role in the human body.
A list of 277 plant foods
with known phenolic compounds content has been compiled by the USDA (top
62 antioxidant foods).
general are beneficial for
health, especially when consumed in their natural (food) form. When
isolated in supplemental form, they can be toxic if taken in excess,
just as most any other
Non-essential minerals that can be beneficial for health
include boron, bromine, bismuth, lithium and strontium.
helps retain calcium and magnesium - which can be beneficial for
bone metabolism - but at the expense of lowering manganese. There
are indications that it can be beneficial for the endocrine system;
however, its testosterone-like effect may contribute to hair loss in
Bromine can help correct hyperthyroidism, and also has
anti-seizure properties. On the flip side, the excess can cause
hypothyroidism (bromine-based fire retardants in products for household use are
suspect), acne and psychological disturbances.
is beneficial in correcting gastrointestinal disorders stemming from
low stomach acid; overdose may cause mental confusion, visual,
hearing and speech disturbances, joint and adrenal problems.
Lithium also helps with low
stomach acid (lower stomach), as well as with bipolar and
manic-depressive disorders; deficiency is common, but an overdose can
cause adverse effects, including nausea, weight gain, hypothyroidism, liver and
can have beneficial effect in treating osteoporosis, but causes more
of side-effects than other natural
Non-essential vitamins are B8 (inositol), B10 (PABA), B11 (choline),
B15 (pangamic acid) and P (bioflavonoids).
Vitamin B8 (inositol) is necessary for production of
lecithin; it has important role in cellular nutrition, and promotes
Vitamin B10 (PABA, or Para-aminobenzoic acid) is involved in the
production of folic acid by intestinal bacteria; it is coenzyme in
protein metabolism, and blood cell formation; important for skin
Vitamin B11 (choline) is, with inositol, basic
constituent of lecithin; it supports kidney, liver and gallbladder
function, and health of the protective nerve layer. Phosphatidyl
choline, the most bio-active component of lecithin, is necessary for
the synthesis of
acetylcholine, body's major neurotransmitter. Deficiency can
result in various symptoms and diseases, including dementia (may be
a factor in developing Alzheimer's).
(pangamic acid), is originally found in apricot kernel; it
supports cardiac function.
Vitamin P, or (bio)flavonoids, are the most abundant
group of polyphenols, one of the four major groups of phytochemicals;
they include a number of compounds, among them rutin,
quercetin, hesperidin, sylimarin and
catechin (from green tea); also, a group of potent fruit
antioxidants, anthocyanins. Many beneficial health effects of
flavonoids include supporting capillary and blood vessel integrity,
wound healing and immune system.
Other accessory food nutrients
accessory nutrients are also
non-essential amino acids,
and coenzyme Q10.
acid is not only more diverse
antioxidants than any other, it is also antioxidant's antioxidant,
capable of recycling other antioxidants like vitamins C and E. In its
regular synthetic form, alpha lipoic acid consists from its two
mirror-forms: the superior
and the inferior
S-lipoic acid, which even reduces the
effectiveness of the superior form. R-lipoic acid can be found as a
separate supplement, and offers significantly higher potency than the
standard combined form.
most efficient form of lipoic acid is di-hydro-lipoic acid,
or DHLA. It is the first metabolic transition of R-lipoic acid, thus
Tripeptide glutathione, is one of the key body antioxidants,
made of three non-essential amino acids, glutamic acid, cysteine and
glycine, with glycine being antioxidant itself. It is widely
present in fresh foods, but lost in processing, and mainly destroyed
by cooking. The body synthesizes glutathione; however, if the degree
of oxidative activity within the body is high, it can cause
glutathione deficiency and resulting oxidative damage. More so if
glutathione synthesis is, for any of a number of possible reasons,
ubiquinone) is a crucial enzyme for cellular energy production, and
particularly important for heart health; also, low CQ10 levels are found
in some forms of cancer. Coenzyme Q10 is also synthesized by the body,
but deficiency state can be caused by nutritional deficiencies, genetic
malfunction, drug interactions (cholesterol-lowering drugs), or the increase in its use by the body. Body's CQ10
production declines with age, often resulting in its deficiency with the
many other accessory food nutrients, some known, some unknown, that
are beneficial for health. It underlines the importance of diverse
diet; any single food is far from supplying the body with all known
and unknown nutrients it needs for the optimum health.