The art of putting bioactives on your plate

Do you have a favorite precious gemstone? Perhaps an emerald or a sapphire? A ruby or a topaz? Maybe precious gems are not your thing. But here’s the point of the question.  Just like precious gems have held unique value for humans for centuries, bioactives have a similar intrinsic value akin to precious gems, but for your genes. And they have since the beginning of time. Here’s how. 

Genes produce proteins which direct the day to day operations in your body. Bioactives are integral to the process that determines whether a gene is turned to produce proteins, or turned off to stop production. Bioactives can send a green light to a gene to produce a unique protein, or a red light to halt production of that same protein. You want to turn genes on that increase the efficiency by which your body handles blood sugar. You want to turn genes off that promote fat storage versus fat burning for energy. 

Since  bioactives are essential for a finely-tuned human engine, we want to find as many ways as possible to get them onto your plate and into your mouth. To do this, they need a little attention and some tender-loving care which we can give them by following some simple rules. Here are six ways you can get your bioactives and harness their benefits too. 


Select food rich in bioactives. Simple way to do this is to head to the fresh crucifers in the produce section or buy at the market. Along with fresh herbs and spices, these foods are rich bioactives and should become staples on your plate. Learn more about how to crucifers for your plate here.


Choose fresh produce first and shop for it often. Like nutrients, the power of bioactives diminishes over time. The longer the food remains in your refrigerator, the less potent the bioactives are. Buy local and from farmer’s markets in the summer. Buy fresh and eat faster in the winter.

stir fry

Bioactives are sensitive to heat. The higher the temperature and the longer you cook them, the more you reduce their ability to work with your genes. The best work: Serve some foods raw and some cooked. When cooking, choose steaming and quick stir-fry over roasting and boiling. Don't eschew the roasted vegetables, just remember to vary your cooking techniques when you cook.

lemon and acid

Acid brings out the flavor in many foods and is essential to the kitchen, but can quickly deactivate bioactives. If you are making a salad or a slaw, simply add your dressing or acid at the last minute. This way you preserve the bioactives and they can talk to your genes too.

citrus peel and zest

Don’t throw out your orange peels. The peels and zest of orange citrus are a source of several bioactives that have food-gene communication ability. Recent research has found 3 bioactives that appear to prevent the formation of the amyloid plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

tomato sauce and lycopene

And of course there are exceptions to the rule! Cooking or slowly dehydrating tomatoes (think sun-dried) actually transforms its resident bioactive, lycopene, into the form that can best communicate with your genes! So enjoy your tomatoes raw and cook them too.