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What Are Mesonutrients and Why Are They Important?

Macronutrients are the fats, proteins and carbohydrates that supply our bodies with energy. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that produce the enzymes and hormones we need for healthy development. While both are important in promoting overall health and wellness, they don’t tell the entire story when it comes to the health benefits your foods can provide.

Hidden within foods such as turmeric, tomatoes and blackberries are active compounds called mesonutrients that might play a big role in making these foods so good for you. Research shows the benefits might include a decreased risk of certain cancers, reduced inflammation, improved brain function, increased energy, weight and metabolism management, and a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

If you haven’t heard of a mesonutrient, don’t worry, it’s a relatively new term to the general public. However, many health publications and websites are proclaiming it as the newest health trend of 2019. So, why are mesonutrients so important?

What are mesonutrients? 

Superfoods that are known for being nutrient-dense and great for your overall wellness have mesonutrients to thank for the super benefits they provide. In Greek, “meso” translates to “inside.” Mesonutrients are, therefore, the active compounds found inside superfoods that provide the rich antioxidants our bodies need to function properly and are responsible for the all the health benefits associated with eating them.

While mesonutrients aren’t a new discovery, some scientists now think we may reap more benefits of these antioxidants by consuming them in higher, more concentrated doses.

How to consume mesonutrients

While mesonutrients can be consumed simply by eating superfoods, some experts think you can exploit their benefits more directly with high-strength doses. Thanks to the growing popularity and awareness of mesonutrients, some companies are beginning to market them in supplemental powders or capsules to be ingested in concentrated doses. A caveat, though: always make sure to consult your health care provider first before taking supplements, especially in high-strength doses.

Why can’t you just eat larger amounts of superfoods to access more mesonutrients, you ask? Well, you could, but you might have to eat an excessive amount every day to get the same amount of mesonutrients you would get from a supplement. In addition, eating only plant-based foods high in mesonutrients could take away from eating a well-balanced diet that should also include things like lean proteins, whole grains, legumes and nuts as well as fruits and vegetables.

This isn’t to say you should stop eating superfoods and only consume mesonutrients in supplement form. The foods themselves provide many benefits (such as fiber) beyond the mesonutrients found within them. Eating superfoods regularly will provide your body with the essential things it needs, but supplementing your diet with added mesonutrients could provide additional powerful benefits.

Six key mesonutrients

Below are six mesonutrients found in foods you most likely already eat. While these are not the only mesonutrients, they are the most widely studied and most commonly accessible both in natural and supplemental forms.

Curcumin

Mesonutrient

Turmeric is a popular superfood that has been consumed for its health properties for centuries. While turmeric is known as a potent anti-inflammatory, its active ingredient, curcumin, is actually responsible for lowering levels of inflammation in the body.

Low-level inflammation has been found to be a major factor leading to an increased risk of heart disease, certain cancers, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative conditions. Turmeric can play a role in reducing the inflammation that causes these conditions. Unfortunately, the concentration of curcumin naturally found in raw turmeric is low — only around three percent by weight. In addition, the gastrointestinal tract has a hard time absorbing curcumin on its own. Consuming curcumin in supplement form with added bioperine (known commonly as black pepper) can help your body absorb this beneficial mesonutrient. 

Lycopene 

Mesonutrient

Lycopene is a phytochemical and mesonutrient most commonly found in tomatoes. It's also found in other (but not all) red foods such as watermelon, pink grapefruit, red carrots, red bell peppers, guava and papaya. While all mesonutrients are rich in antioxidants, lycopene might be the best source of antioxidants for neutralizing harmful free radicals that damage important biological structures in the body, such as your DNA, proteins, cells and tissues.

This mesonutrient is thought to protect your skin from environmental damage, meaning it can help lessen your chances of getting a sunburn when you’re exposed to ultraviolet rays (although it’s still best to always wear sunscreen when outdoors for extended periods of time).

Lycopene is also thought to strengthen bones, lower levels of LDL cholesterol and boost your metabolism. Its strong antioxidant properties can protect your eyes from oxidative stress, making it important for maintaining overall eye health. 

Epigallocatechin-3-gallate  

Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, more commonly known as EGCG, is one of a group of plant phenols called tannins that are found in green tea. Green tea’s popularity stems back 5,000 years to the Chinese aristocracy. Today, tea is consumed by two-thirds of the world’s population on a daily basis, and not just because it’s delicious.

The EGCG found in green tea has powerful cancer-preventing benefits. Studies have shown that this mesonutrient has the potential to stop cancer cells from growing, kill cancer cells and even prevent the formation of blood vessels in cancerous tumors. EGCG is also linked with improved brain function, fat loss and protection against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

The best way to consume EGCG is through matcha powder — a highly concentrated form of green tea. Matcha powder is harvested from tea plants that have been shielded from direct sunlight for 20 to 30 days before harvest. This increases the chlorophyll production, boosts amino acid content and gives the plant a darker green color.

Anthocyanins

Anthocyanins are found in naturally purple foods such as black currants, blackberries, blueberries and purple sweet potatoes as well as in some red foods such as cherries, pomegranates, kidney beans, grapes, açai berries and cranberries.

These mesonutrients act as antioxidants and offer anti-inflammatory and anti-viral benefits. Anthocyanins help improve cholesterol levels and blood sugar metabolism and fight oxidative stress which helps enhance heart health and ward off heart disease. Some studies have shown that anthocyanins can promote weight loss and inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.

Berberine

Berberine is found in goldenseal and barberries and has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine. These two foods are not commonly found in grocery stores or farmers markets, meaning this mesonutrient is best found in supplement form. Although obscure, berberine can help balance blood pressure and has anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been found to decrease blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes, promote weight loss and lower levels of LDL cholesterol.  

Saffronal

Mesonutrient

Saffronal is derived from its namesake spice, saffron – which is commonly used in many recipes for added flavor. This mesonutrient is thought to have many health benefits including promoting mental health, decreasing the risk of macular degeneration (age-related degeneration of the eyes), boosting digestive health, preventing hair loss, alleviating symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and relieving body pain. Recently, research has indicated that saffronal also might have an effect as an antidepressant and appetite suppressant. 


As with all dietary changes, it’s very important to first consult your primary care physician before increasing your mesonutrient consumption. Your health care provider can help you decide which mesonutrients may be best for your health and which you may want to take in supplement form in addition to your regular diet. 

mesonutrient infographic


(Disclaimer notice: This article is intended to provide general health information and to support the promotion of health and wellness. The information on mesonutrients does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care or advice provided by your physician or qualified provider. If you have any specific questions about a personal medical matter, please consult your doctor or other professional health care provider).

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