Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Whole Food Philosophy: The Nutrients, And The Mojo

Last time we left off with the Story of the Giant Sugar Beet and I used an apple as an example of all the compounds that can be found in whole foods. It was an impressive list, wasn't it?

If you look up the nutritional contents of our average apple, here is what you'll find:


with skin peeled
Calcium 7.5 mg 5.5 mg
Iron 0.1 mg 0.1 mg
Magnesium 6.3 mg 4.4 mg
Phosphorus 13.8 mg 12.1 mg
Potassium 134 mg 99.0 mg
Sodium 1.3 mg 0.0 mg
Zinc 0.0 mg 0.1 mg
Copper 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
Manganese 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
Selenium 0.0 mcg 0.0 mgc
Fluoride 4.1 mcg -


with skin peeled
Vitamin A 67.5 IU 41.8 IU
Vitamin C 5.7 mg 4.4 mg
Vitamin D - -
Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) 0.2 mg 0.1 mg
Vitamin K 2.8 mcg 0.7 mcg
Thiamin 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
Riboflavin 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
Niacin 0.1 mg 0.1 mg
Vitamin B6 0.1 mg 0.0 mg
Folate 3.6 mcg 0.0 mcg
Vitamin B12 0.0 mcg 0.0 mcg
Pantothenic Acid 0.1 mg 0.1 mg
Choline 4.2 mg 3.7 mg
Betaine 0.1 mg -


with skin peeled
Cholesterol 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
Phytosterols 15.0 mg -

Fatty acids

with skin peeled
Saturated 0.0 g 0.0 g
Monounsaturated 0.0 g 0.0 g
Polyunsaturated 0.1g 0.0 g
Omega-3 fatty acids 11.2 mg 7.7 mg
Omega 6 fatty acids 53.8 mg 34.1 mg

Amino Acids
with skin peeled
1.3 mg
1.1 mg
7.5 mg
6.6 mg
7.5 mg
6.6 mg
16.3 mg
15.4 mg
15.0 mg
14.3 mg
1.3 mg
1.1 mg
1.3 mg
1.1 mg
7.5 mg
7.7 mg
1.3 mg
1.1 mg
15.0 mg
13.2 mg
7.5 mg
6.6 mg
6.3 mg
5.5 mg
13.8 mg
13.2 mg
Aspartic acid
87.5 mg
81.4 mg
Glutamic acid
31.2 mg
28.6 mg
11.2 mg
9.9 mg
7.5 mg
6.6 mg
12.5 mg
12.1 mg

Amounts Per 125g

Not that this isn't an impressive list. But why is it so much shorter?

Is it because not all the compounds present are worthy of measuring? They don't do anything so why worry about them? What if that is a wrong assumption? What if the apple's mojo is hiding between the lines of the nutrient list?

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Would you agree?

We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us; that's because of all the vitamins they contain, right? Is, then, taking a vitamin pill the same as eating an apple? (And let's, for the moment, pretend that the pill would contain the vitamins exactly as they are found in the fruit)

Perhaps it isn't the same thing. Perhaps the vitamin supplements are missing some important stuff.

Beside the nutrients listed above, an apple is full of phytochemicals.

What the heck is that? Phytochemicals are non-nutritive chemicals found in plants. Aha! Non-nutritive, that's why they're not listed in the nutrient profiles then. If they are non-nutritive, why would we care about them?

Is there more to nutrition than nutrients?

While phytochemicals are not nutrients in the traditional sense, they can do some pretty cool stuff. Many of them are powerful antioxidants; they protect cells against oxidative damage. Some of them protect cells from pathogens, and other cool things.

What can a whole apple do that a vitamin pill might not?

Apple phytochemicals can
  • decrease risk of chronic diseases
  • reduce risk of cancer
  • inhibit cancer cell proliferation
  • regulate inflammatory and immune response
  • reduce risk of cardiovascular disease
  • increase lung function
  • reduce risk of type II diabetes
  • assist with weight management

Some research seems to show that they can fight the effects of aging on the brain, might prevent cataracts, regulate intestinal bacteria and even help protect against asthma. French researchers found that a compound found only in apples may protect from osteoporosis and may increase bone density.

The non-nutrient compounds seem to have some pretty strong mojo, don't you think?

Interesting note: nearly all of the antioxidant activity from apples comes from variety of compounds other than vitamin C, which contributed less than 0.4% of total antioxidant activity.

Another interesting note, and my grandma knew this: there is more antioxidant and cancer inhibiting mojo in the apple peels than in apple flesh.

By no means I mean to say that nutrients are not important, they certainly are.

But perhaps by simply counting nutrients we are missing an important point.

I believe  that regardless of how we choose to look at it, both, animals and ourselves, evolved in synergy with our food source, whatever that might be.

The question then is, how far can counting selected nutrients and omitting the rest take us?

It's your dog's health,

Further reading:
Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits

Related articles:
The Whole Food Philosophy And The Tale Of A Giant Sugar Beet 
"Natural" With Regard To Dog Nutrition (Part I): What Does It Mean And Does It Matter?


  1. I'm really loving this series Jana. We are big, BIG fans of whole food nutrition here at Casa de Kolchak.

    1. Must be good living at Casa de Kolchak! :-) Glad you like the series, a lot of interesting aspects of nutrition usually left out from discussion.

  2. Exellent article! Aside from the great subject matter, I really enjoyed the writing style. You are a great writer :)

    1. Aww, thank you, glad you enjoyed the article! :-)