Why study phytochemicals in grain products?

Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2019

Written by Annie Bolton B.Sc. Student (NANS)

Purple wheat in a field.

Phytochemicals, are biologically active compounds that come from plants.  These are naturally occurring compounds found in fruits, vegetables and grains. Phytochemicals are known for having beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. For human health, these compounds are important for preventing oxidative stress from free radicals that contribute to aging and chronic disease.

Anthocyanins are type of phytochemical, in the flavonoid family. They are quickly metabolized and used by the human body. Anthocyanins from fruits have been studied a lot to test for their absorption and potential health benefits. We often see these foods touted as superfoods because of their purple, blue and red pigments, from foods such as blackberries, blueberries, and cherries, to name a few.

Ferulic acid, which is another type of phytochemical in the phenolic acid family, is dominant in purple wheat and is bound to indigestible sugars. This means that it takes a long time for them to be absorbed. When grain products are baked, the phenolic acids that were bound to insoluble sugars, become free, and are more available for the body to use. Both phytochemical metabolites can be detected in the blood and urine after consumption, which is an indication that the nutrients have been absorbed.

Pigmented grains, like purple wheat, are gaining more popularity among consumers but little is known about the absorption of anthocyanins from grain products. Stay tuned for updates on our HNRU collaborations studying purple wheat!!


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