Food sustains the human body by delivering components to participate in its processes, systems, and composition. Aligning the study of food components to those of human systems enables a mechanistic understanding of the effects of foods.
The impact of food is complex in that it delivers multiple molecules that impact on these pathways at a number of different levels, and this effect is gradually being exposed with detailed mechanistic studies using food extracts.
Specific reference should be given to herbs and spices as a separate food category in dietary guidelines because
- a very high concentration of phenolics in herbs may increase the antioxidant capacity of the meal with just a few grams of the food.
- there is supportive evidence of mechanisms by which compounds in herbs and spices may afford protection against oxidative and inflammatory mechanisms.
- herbs and spices are plant foods, aligned to food groups such as fruits, vegetables, and seeds but are used differently in the culinary sense.
Continuing our series on issues involving dietary guidelines
Linda C. Tapsell, PhD, FDAA, has worked in the field of food and nutrition for more than 30 years in clinical, public health, and academic environments. She is a fellow of the Dietitians Association of Australia and international member of the American Dietetics Association. In 2006, she received an award for outstanding contribution to the profession from the Dietitians Association of Australia in recognition of her work with scientific writing and editing. She conducts clinical research on diet and the metabolic syndrome and works with stakeholder groups including the food industry on the evidence base for practice in the nutrition field.
Sources of support: Professor Tapsell receives grants and undertakes consultancies with a number of food industry groups and companies in Australia. Previous publications in this area were supported by an education grant from Gourmet Garden.
Correspondence: Linda C. Tapsell, PhD, FDAA, Smart Foods Centre, University of Wollongong, Wollongong NSW, Australia 2522 (email@example.com).