A sustainable food system has accessible, healthy, and delicious foods while minimizing waste and maximizing biodiversity of the landscape. Foods have many different types of unique molecules beyond vitamins and minerals that may improve health. These non-nutrient molecules are known as “dietary bioactives.” We are working to understand how dietary bioactives from underutilized fruit, vegetables, nuts, and dairy products improve immune function and reduce chronic disease risk. The profile and abundance of dietary bioactives depends on many factors, including the type of food, growing conditions, food processing, and storage. It is important to understand how dietary bioctives impact immune function and reduce disease risk so high-quality foods can be produced for improving health. Our group is working on improving chemical analysis of food bioactives and understanding the complexity of metabolism and bioavailability of these molecules in the context of improving health. We are using cell-based assays, rodent models of inflammation, and human intervention studies to understand how dietary bioactives can prevent chronic disease.
(Photo credits for graphic: Sevie Kenyon/UW-Madison CALS, Michael P. King/UW-Madison CALS )