HORT*3310 Plants, Food and Health

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NOTE: This course is cancelled for F23.
The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2022 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

This course will provide an in-depth understanding of plants grown for food, spices and grains as they relate to humans in terms of disease prevention and health. Plants and their familial characteristics, the metabolic pathways characteristic to specific food types, and their effects on human physiology will be discussed. The topic will be introduced in the context of world food habits, plants as food and hot spots of healthy populations and their food customs.

The course examines the relation between plants that are cultivated for food, the variety of food products derived from these plants and their potential impacts on human health. The course will look at plant evolution, specifically with a phytochemical perspective, and how these produce came to be important in human physiology. Utilization of plants and products for food around the world will be examined in the context of food habits.


Teaching Assistant:


Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please refer to WebAdvisor for class schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course, students should be able to:
  1. Have a broad knowledge about plants and their various parts used as food, and their utilization for food around the world.
  2. Know the evolutionary relationships between plant taxonomical grouping, and its relation to the chemistry of food products.
  3. Understand the implications of consuming a variety of foods with diverse dietary components and health.
  4. Develop a basic understanding of how the various dietary components influence human metabolism and help maintain health.
  5. Develop an understanding of fresh vs processed, and changes in dietary components that may occur during processing.

Lecture Content:

  • World food habits- utilization of plants for food, evolution of plants.
  • Super order Magnoliidae- Focus families (Annonaceae, Myristicaceae, Lauraceae, Piperaceae, Peperomiaceae). Plants with medicinal and food qualities. Cultivation, Products, Chemistry, utilization.
  • Super Order Caryophyllidae- Focus families (Cactaceae, Caryophyllaceae, Amaranthaceae, Chenopodiaceae). Plants with medicinal and food qualities. Cultivation, Products, Chemistry, utilization.
  • Super Order Dillenidae- Focus families (Sterculiaceae, Malvaceae, Bixaceae, Tamaricaceae, Passifloraceae, Cucurbitaceae, Brassicaceae, Moringaceae, Sapotaceae). Plants with medicinal and food qualities. Cultivation, Products, Chemistry, utilization.
  • Superorder Rosidae- Focus families (Rosaceae, Papilionaceae, Myrtaceae, Punicaceae, Santalaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Vitaceae, Anacardiaceae, Rutaceae, Apiaceae). Plants with medicinal and food qualities. Cultivation, Products, Chemistry, utilization.
  • Super Order Asteridae. Focus families (Solanaceae, Convolvulaceae, Lamiaceae, Rubiaceae, Asteraceae). Plants with medicinal and food qualities. Cultivation, Products, Chemistry, utilization.
  • Super Order Commelinidae- Focus families (Poaceae, Bromeliaceae, Musaceae, Zingiberaceae). Plants with medicinal and food qualities. Cultivation, Products, Chemistry, utilization.

In general, a family by family description of the topic will be presented through two lectures/week, each with ~ 75 minutes duration. Emphasis is placed on class discussion, and student interactions.

Week 1: Course Information Course outline; Lecture Schedule; Recommended Reading Schedule etc. World food habits, Implications on Society, Health.
Week 2: Super Order Magnolidae- Characteristics, families, plants, cultivation, edible products, chemical components, health implications. Acetogenins and anticancer properties. Polyketides in plants.
Week 3: Super Order Caryophyllidae- Cactaceae, Caryophyllaceae, Amaranthaceae, Chenopodiaceae. Foods and spices, plants characteristics, cultivation, storage. Proteins from Amaranthus. Plants used for spices in tropics. Health benefits, uses, disease prevention. Fruits of cactaceae, components, consumption and health benefits.
Week 4, 5: Super Order Dillenidae: Sterculiaceae, Malvaceae, Bixaceae, Tamaricaceae, Passifloraceae, Cucurbitaceae, Brassicaceae, Moringaceae, Sapotaceae. Plants and characteristics. Types of products-flowers to fruit to seed. Common components in food products. Disease preventive properties of components.
Week 6, 7: Super Order Rosidae: Rosaceae, Papilionaceae, Myrtaceae, Punicaceae, Santalaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Vitaceae, Anacardiaceae, Rutaceae, Apiaceae. Plants and characteristics, Types of products used as food, flowers, fruits, seeds. Disease preventive properties of components.
Week 8: Super Order Asteridae: Solanaceae, Convolvulaceae, Lamiaceae, Rubiaceae, Asteraceae. Plants with medicinal and food qualities, chemistry of alkaloids, health regulatory components in Lamiaceae, sensory characteristics, Aromatherapy.
Week 9, 10: Super Order Commelinidae: Poaceae, Bromeliaceae, Musaceae, Zingiberaceae. Monocot families of economic importance, cereals and cereal products, less consumed cereals, health implications of processing. Fruits-pineapple, banana, importance in food. Rhizomes of medicinal value-ginger, turmeric etc. Health regulatory functions.
Weeks 11-12: Processed food, implications on health, general topics and discussions on current food habits.
Labs & Seminars:


Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Grade Learning Outcomes assessed

Term Paper- A topic relevant to use of plants for food with health impacts


1, 2, 4, 5

Final (Take home exam)


3, 4, 5



1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Final examination:

Final examination date and time:

The final examinations are take-home examinations. Students will be required to submit the answers within a specific time based on the degree of difficulty. The take home exam is based on a specific chronic disease condition, and how food/ingredients can help control the disease. The stress will be on the biochemical mechanism of action of the ingredients.

Course Resources:

Self-study resources/References
Students can refer to the following materials as needed:

Course Policies:

Other Course Information:

Additional Notes

The term paper should be a concise description of the topic, described in about ten pages, double spaced, including diagrams, figures, tables etc. This should be submitted by 19th February or earlier to provide an early evaluation of performance.

Late submissions will be subjected to a reduction of 5% of the total marks unless academic consideration has been granted.



University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

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University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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