How Bioactives Help You Achieve Optimal Health

We know how inundated you are with hearing about the latest and greatest diets and workout plans claiming to resolve all your health problems. Achieving true optimal health starts internally by understanding how different food and supplements and lifestyle choices affect your gene expression.  Bioactives are a useful substance that have a role in the production of metabolites and the gut microbiome. So let’s dive a little further into how bioactives may help you achieve optimal health.

What are Bioactives?  

Bioactives are chemicals, chemical molecules, and microbes (microscopic organisms) that have a biological effect on the body. They offer a unique molecular signature that can turn off pro-inflammatory genes.

This is important because your body is in a constant state of flux, with free radicals and unstable oxygen molecules attacking your genes. If your diet doesn’t have enough antioxidants to take care of the free radicals, you may go into oxidative stress, resulting in inflammation. The cycle continues as inflammation causes more oxidative stress.

Chronic inflammation causes your body to be on high alert all the time. When your body experiences inflammation too long or incorrectly, it may trigger the disease process. Uncontrolled inflammation plays a role in almost every major disease including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and depression.

There is also a correlation between chronic system inflammation and aging. Research indicates characteristics of the aging process are induced by inflammation.2

Bioactive nutrients affect human health and reduce disease risk through macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber) and micronutrients (antioxidant vitamins and minerals), acting as first-line interventions in the prevention and treatment of cancer, aging, and other diseases.3,4

Bioactives + Nutritional Genomics

Nutritional genomics is an important topic to mention when talking about bioactives.  Bioactives relate to nutritional genomics since the food you eat communicates with gut bacteria and can alter your genes.  Nutrigenomics is an emerging scientific discipline that studies changes induced by diet on the genome, and focuses on health, diet, and genomics.5  Nutritional genomics matches genes with food and lifestyle choices to create optimal health. Creating the right lifestyle and diet may help to avoid expressing the wrong genes that could cause a particular disease. 

Nutrigenomics may be emerging more into mainstream, but interestingly enough, Donna has been researching this topic for years, and as of 30 years ago when she founded Body Ecology, has been promoting 7 healthy eating principles, one of them being, the principle of uniqueness:  just because something is good for one, doesn’t mean it’s good for another.  Knowing this may help you tremendously as you try to cut through all the noise of the internet.   There is no better proof than your own DNA!

How Do Bioactives Benefit Health?

Eating patterns influence gene, protein expression, metabolism, and activates the function of other proteins. Once absorbed at the cell level, a nutrient interacts by signaling pathways, making small changes in its structure.

Bioactive Foods to Promote Good Health

You’ll be amazed to see how many foods are bioactive-rich, contributing to positive gene expression.

Bioactives are often found in fermented foods, which are known to contain specific bacterial metabolites – a substance necessary for metabolism. Bioactive peptides form during the fermentation process of cultured vegetables and even kefir and can actually colonize the intestinal tract with probiotics – like Lactobacillus plantarum –and aid digestion.6,7 

Bovine milk and colostrum have even been shown to be highly important sources of natural bioactive components for human nutrition and health.8

Bioactives are also found in fruits and vegetables.   Artichoke leaf in particular is a top antioxidant, and contains bioactive chemicals that can survive the harsh environment of the digestive tract to support whole-body health. If you’re not into artichoke leaves, here’s a high quality powder form containing them.

Carotenoids offer a range of health benefits, aiding in the synthesis of Vitamin A and acting as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damaging free radicals. Carotenoids are found in fresh fruits and vegetables like winter squash, carrots, tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables (please make sure you chose organic when necessary – check the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists).

Polyphenols are an antioxidant offering cardiovascular benefits found in popular cooking spices and herbs such as turmeric, rosemary, oregano, and milk thistle.

Flavonoids, they’re found in low-glycemic berries, and certain green tea (some of our favorites are Pique tea and Ujido Matcha).

Oligosaccharides have a prebiotic effect and also stimulate the growth of microflora in the intestine (colon), aiding digestion. This bioactive is found in onions, leeks, chicory roots, artichokes, asparagus and garlic. It can be added to cultured vegetables, drinks, smoothies, baked goods and kefir.  We have an easy to use high-quality powder form too.  

Derivatives of amino acids (omega-3s) are known for brain development in infants and cardiac health in adults. Omega-3s are found in fish (get wild-caught), flaxseed, good quality fish oil, and one of our favorites that can be put into just about anything, Super Spirulina.  

A variety of spices include bioactives and antioxidant properties – cinnamon is known for its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties and is also an anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, antimicrobial, anticancer, lipid-lowering, and cardiovascular-disease-lowering compound. 9 Ginger is another wonderful antioxidant and antimicrobial spice with anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric contains bioactive compounds such as curcuminoids, which hold powerful anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, curcuminoid containing turmeric extracts and the inclusion of additional naturally occurring chemicals (i.e. essential oils and/or polar compounds) were equally powerful in preventing human breast cancer cell growth.10 

Not all bioactives will benefit everyone in the same capacity. It’s important to remember the principle of uniqueness: what is right for you may not be right for the next person – pay attention to how your body reacts to everything. Gene composition can affect your ability to excel in sports, manage stress, and how you metabolize bioactive ingredients.   

And again, remember, trust your DNA!  And at the same time, know, your genes don’t control you – you can learn how to turn the bad genes off and the good ones on!        


1) Di Corleto, Phil, PhD.  Why You Should Pay Attention to Chronic Inflammation – the connection between inflammation and disease.  Cleveland Clinic. October 14, 2014.  Retrieved on February 20, 2020 from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-you-should-pay-attention-to-chronic-inflammation/ 

2) Chung HY, Kim DH, Lee EK, et al. Redefining Chronic Inflammation in Aging and Age-Related Diseases: Proposal of the Senoinflammation Concept. Aging Dis. 2019;10(2):367–382. Published 2019 Apr 1. Retrieved on February 20, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457053/

3) Department of Pharmacy, University of Salerno, Fisciano 84084, Italy, et al. Bioactive Nutrients and Nutrigenomics in Age-Related Diseases. (2017). MDPI, 22(1). Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/22/1/105/htm

4) Riscuta G. Nutrigenomics at the Interface of Aging, Lifespan, and Cancer Prevention. J Nutr. 2016;146(10):1931–1939. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5037878/

5) Evangelakou, Z., Manola, M., Gumeni, S., & Trougakos, I. P. (2019, May 2). Nutrigenomics as a tool to study the impact of diet on aging and age-related diseases: the Drosophila approach. BMC. Retrieved February 12, 2020, from https://genesandnutrition.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12263-019-0638-6

6) Matar, C., Goulet, J., Bernier, R. L., & Brochu, E. (n.d.). Bioactive Peptides from Fermented Foods: Their Role in the Immune System. Springer, 193–212. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-017-2768-6_8

7) de Oliveira Leite AM, Miguel MA, Peixoto RS, Rosado AS, Silva JT, Paschoalin VM. Microbiological, technological and therapeutic properties of kefir: a natural probiotic beverage. Braz J Microbiol. 2013;44(2):341–349. Published 2013 Oct 30. Retrieved on February 20, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3833126/

8) Park YW, Nam MS. Bioactive Peptides in Milk and Dairy Products: A Review. Korean J Food Sci Anim Resour. 2015;35(6):831–840. Retrieved on February 20, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4726964/

9) Rao PV, Gan SH. Cinnamon: a multifaceted medicinal plant. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:642942. Retrieved on February 20, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003790/

10) Wright, L. E., Frye, J. B., Gorti, B., Timmermann, B. N., & Funk, J. L. (2014). Bioactivity of Turmeric-Derived Curcuminoids and Related Metabolites in Breast Cancer. U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3883055/

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