Mesonutrients: the unsung heroes in our plant foods
We live in the age of plant foods. Doctors, scientists and athletes alike are championing the positive effects they have on our bodies, and the earth benefits greatly too as we switch some of our more carnivorous habits to plant-based ones. But what makes plant foods so good for us? Is it their vitamin and mineral content, or is there more to it? Allow us to introduce mesonutrients: the bioactive compounds within plants doing the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting.
While macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are firmly established in the mainstream canon of health and wellness, mesonutrients are a relatively nascent concept.
From the Greek word meso – meaning “middle” or “inside” – mesonutrients are the active compounds, or antioxidants, that bestow nutrient-dense plant foods with their hero-like powers. Comparable to the active ingredients in medicine, mesonutrients are the compounds that are said to trigger positive reactions throughout the body’s internal systems: from reducing inflammation and slowing ageing to lowering blood sugar and battling free radicals. Mesonutrients, together with their macro and micro counterparts, are at the core of why we thrive on a plant-forward diet.
While some mesonutrients can be obtained through food and drink alone, it is more difficult to reap the full benefits of others, even through the healthiest of diets. Enter meso-dosing: the use of potent, targeted ways to ensure direct access to these powerful nutrients.
Meet our favourite mesonutrient heroes, and learn how to access their powers:
Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is arguably the posterchild of mesonutrients. Said to boost brain function and lower the risk of brain disease, its plethora of benefits range from the anti-inflammatory to the anti-ageing. Unfortunately, in order to obtain the amount of curcumin commonly used in scientific studies, one would have to consume the equivalent of 11 turmeric lattes a day (!). Thankfully, beneficially-dosed supplements are available, and choosing a high-quality turmeric source like this one will ensure you get a good amount of curcumin as well as the full spectrum of turmeric’s other natural actives.
Pro tip: you can boost absorption by complementing turmeric with black pepper and oil/ghee. Studies have shown that curcumin is fat soluble and piperine (an active compound in black pepper) enhances its bioavailability by 2,000%. Curcumin is also known to be a great ally to cannabidiol - enhancing that sought after entourage effect - so put a few CBD drops in your next golden latte.
Recipe highlight: Turmeric Golden Milk (CBD oil optional)
Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG)
Though the name may be intimidating, you probably already have EGCG in your house. EGCG is the active compound in green tea, scientifically proven to prevent premature ageing, boost metabolism and improve brain function. For optimal results, scientists recommend 250-400mg of EGCG extract daily, or two cups of green tea. To really pack a punch, we recommend matcha powder, a highly concentrated form of green tea, which offers benefits even at relatively low doses, such as in a matcha latte. Go for a vivid green matcha powder – the greener, the better.
Recipe highlight: Vegan Matcha Latte
Anthocyanins can be found in naturally purple and red foods such as blueberries, blackberries, purple sweet potatoes, as well as some red foods including cranberries, cherries, and pomegranates. They boast strong anti-inflammatory and anti-viral benefits, can enhance heart health and improve cholesterol levels and blood sugar metabolism. 250 grams of blueberries provide the scientist-recommended 400mg of anthocyanins, but supplements in the form of pills or powder can tide you over when they aren’t in season.
Recipe highlight: Antioxidant Berry Smoothie
Berberine traces its roots back to traditional Chinese medicine and can be found in lesser known plants such as goldenseal and barberries. This mesonutrient has been proven to stabilize blood pressure, promote weight loss, and lower levels of LDL cholesterol. We recommend dried barberries for a good nibble, or seeking out a high-quality natural supplement, which typically offers 200mg per capsule.
Lycopene is the active compound found in red foods such as tomatoes, strawberries, and watermelon. Studies suggest that this mesonutrient protects against oxidative stress and free radicals, and can lower LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind) while simultaneously raising HDL cholesterol (the good kind). The plant nutrient is even said to protect against sunburns. Reports advise that 8 – 21mg is the ideal daily dosage. At 46mg of lycopene per 100 grams, sundried tomatoes offer the most concentrated dosage available in foods. Alternatively, you can ensure you hit a beneficial dose by taking a well-formulated supplement.
Recipe highlight: Sundried Tomato, Spinach & Quinoa Salad
As always, consult your physician before implementing any major dietary changes or adding supplements to your diet. This article is not intended to replace medical advice.