The Rise of Nutritional Immunology
Nutritional Immunology has a long history, starting in 1742 when British naval doctor James Lind discovered a connection between the British sailors’ diet and scurvy, which led to the discovery of vitamins. Vitamins found in plants are essential for good health. Researchers began to realize that traditional herbal medicines were often more effective in the long run than synthetic drugs, without the side effects. Consequently, scientists began researching myriad of herbs, fruits, and vegetables used traditionally to support the human body.
In 1941, the United States National Research Council established the first Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) required for health. The Food and Drug Administration recognizes only 25 vitamins and minerals for which limits have been established. However, literally thousands of other compounds in plant foods have been and are currently being studied for their role in maintaining human health.
Classifying Compounds that Benefit Health
Aside from vitamins and minerals, many other compounds in plant foods benefit the immune system. The term phytochemicals (‘phyto’ meaning plant), refers to all chemicals found in plant foods. For the sake of clarity, we further separate phytochemicals into two general classes: antioxidants and polysaccharides. Any given plant food may contain chemicals that may be classified as antioxidants, polysaccharides, and/or phytochemicals.