Many nutrition experts have long advocated that people eat the rainbow when it comes to their produce consumption. And beyond even that, it has been stated that you really only want to eat darkly colored fruits and veggies, as those are allegedly the best ones for you. While darkly colored produce is fantastic, as they get those colors from potent nutrients like anthocyanins and anthocyanidins, do they really stand head and shoulders above the others? Due to these recommendations, produce with minimal color like cauliflower, onions, and especially iceburg lettuce and celery, have really taken a backseat, much to my dismay.
In reality, we are still learning and discovering all kinds of new compounds and nutrients in the produce and plants that we eat, and while deep color may be indicative of the healthfulness of some produce, it is not the be all end all. In fact researchers recently discovered a compound called apigenin, which they believe to be one of the most potent anti-cancer compounds ever found! Two of the richest sources of apigenin? Humble, lightly-colored celery and iceburg lettuce.
The thing about cancer cells is that they are actually incredibly successful. At least, as far as their own survival is concerned they are successful to the extent that have a kind of immortality. This is the problem for the person with cancer, the cancer cells bypass the processes that should cause them to die as part of a regular cycle (known as apoptosis) and so they grow out of control and cancers develop. According to new research though, we now know how a substance called apigenin from foods makes cancer cells mortal again.
Apigenin is found in many plants but the best sources are parsley, celery, chamomile tea, thyme and iceburg lettuce. The researchers found that apigenin binds with around 160 different proteins in the human body. Among the most important of these though was a protein called hnRNPA2.
This hnRNPA2 protein influences the activity of messenger RNA (mRNA) which in turn carries the instructions needed to produce a specific protein. The modification of mRNA determines which protein the mRNA will cause to be produced. Abnormal modification (splicing) is the culprit behind around 80 per cent of cancers. The researchers found that apigenin, when applied to breast cancer cells, causes them to splice mRNA normally so that the cancer cells are no longer immortal and are programmed to die as usual (undergo apoptosis), or become sensitive to chemotherapy. That is awesome stuff.
So what does this all mean? It doesn’t mean that you need to take an apigenin pill, it just means you should worry less about which exact types of produce you “should” eat, and instead just eat the ones you enjoy, as that will lead to the greatest overall produce consumption, and likely your best bet for long-term health.