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Things You Need to Know About Phytochemicals

Nicks J
Phytochemicals can work wonders to reduce cancer risk, strengthen the immune system as well as delay the progression of age-related problems.
This story lists some examples of these naturally occurring chemicals that are present in high amounts in various vegetables and fruits.

Did You Know?

Unlike other nutrients, phytochemicals are not necessary for our survival, but their intake can certainly contribute in maintaining our health.
Phytochemicals refer to a large set of chemicals that are predominantly found in plants. Plants have long been using phytochemicals for their survival and to guard against pathogens. Also referred to as phytonutrients, these natural chemicals can be beneficial to our health.
Flavonoids, carotenoids, isoflavones, ellagic acid, indoles, and lignans are the best examples of phytochemicals.

Foods Rich in Phytochemicals

A wide range of vegetables and fruits contain a good deal of phytochemicals. The color of the fruit or the vegetable mainly comes from the phytochemicals that they contain. Be it the red, purple, orange, or the blue color of the fruit, it is essentially due to the presence of phytochemicals.
The darker the color of the food, higher will be the level of phytochemicals present in it. Eating tomatoes, beets, green vegetables (broccoli), and fruits like oranges, pomegranates, blueberries, and strawberries, that are known for their distinct color, are sure to provide a good dose of phytochemicals.
Whole grain products and legumes also contain a host of phytochemicals.

What Do Phytochemicals Do?

Well, it is like asking what vitamins and minerals do? You cannot ignore these natural chemicals if you are serious about your health. Following are some of its benefits.

Anti-aging Effects

Their antioxidant activity will surely help in eliminating free radicals from the body. Free radicals are toxic substances formed from various biological processes running within our body.
These harmful substances have been linked to a wide range of age-related problems such as macular degeneration (that cause poor vision), wrinkling of the skin and cognitive decline. However, these issues can be delayed or even prevented by following an antioxidant-rich diet.

Anticancer Activity

Apart from their anti-aging potential, antioxidants like catechins and lycopene that belong to the class of flavonoids and carotenoids, respectively, display cancer-protective effects, as found out through various human and animal studies.
Clinical trials, animal studies as well as test tube studies point out that these antioxidants are effective at suppressing cancer growth. Their antitumor effects may also protect normal cells from transforming into cancer cells. So, including them in your diet can considerably minimize the chances of developing various types of cancer.

Immune System Booster

Garlic that is commonly used as a condiment contains ally sulfides―phytochemicals that belong to the class of flavonoids. Ally sulfides have demonstrated antibacterial activity in various studies.
These phytochemicals are found to be potent against Gram-positive and Gram-negative strains of bacteria such as streptococcus, salmonella, clostridium, escherichia, and staphylococcus. So ally sulfides with their antimicrobial effects can certainly help in strengthening the immune system.

Mimic Estrogen-like Action

Phytoestrogens (isoflavones), another class of phytochemicals, exhibit estrogen-like activity, which means one can reap the benefits of estrogen by including phytoestrogen-rich foods (soy products and nuts) in the diet. The hormone estrogen, predominantly found in women, helps control bone density.
So to maintain bone density, one can eat foods that are good sources of isoflavonoids. Clinical studies also show that isoflavone foods may reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol.

It is also observed that estrogen levels reduce considerably in post menopausal women, which can lead to a wide range of symptoms.
Studies have shown that these phytochemicals that emulate estrogen-like action can help relieve menopausal symptoms that include vaginal dryness and hot flashes.

Stimulates Beneficial Enzymes

Indoles, a class of phytochemicals present in cruciferous vegetables have shown to stimulate cancer-deactivating enzymes, as found out through laboratory studies. As we all know, cancer cells can spread easily, but this aspect of cancer can be significantly inhibited by these enzyme-stimulating phytochemicals.
On the whole, phytochemicals can play a major role in keeping us healthy. So their inclusion in our diet can certainly make a significant contribution towards overall well-being.