News & tips on health, fitness and nutrition

Monday, January 28, 2008

Phytochemicals

A phytochemical is a natural bioactive compound found in plant foods that works with nutrients and dietary fiber to protect against disease. Research suggests that phytochemicals, working together with nutrients found in fruits, vegetables and nuts, may help slow the aging process and reduce the risk of many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cataracts, osteoporosis, and urinary tract infections.

"Phyto" is a Greek word that means plant and phytochemicals are usually related to plant pigments. Phytochemicals are biologically active constituents heavily concentrated in the skins of botanicalsand are responsible for their color, flavor and scent.

So, fruits and vegetables that are bright colors - yellow, orange, red, green, blue, and purple - generally contain the most phytochemicals and the most nutrients.

More than 900 different phytochemicals have been found in plant foods and more will be discovered. These protective plant compounds are an emerging area of nutrition and health, with new research reported everyday.

Isothiocyanates (found in broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts) may suppress tumor growth and hormone production. Flavonoids (apples, grapefruit, red wine, etc.), soy and lycopene (found in tomatoes) also demonstrate protection against cancer.


How are they beneficial?
Although phytochemicals are not yet classified as nutrients, substances necessary for sustaining life, they have been identified as containing properties for aiding in disease prevention. Phytochemicals are associated with the prevention and/or treatment of at least four of the leading causes of death in the United States -- cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. They are involved in many processes including ones that help prevent cell damage, prevent cancer cell replication, and decrease cholesterol levels.

Maximum health benefits are derived from consuming a variety of botanicals with a full spectrum of colors/pigments.

No comments: