All about Phytochemicals

If you are a person who cares about diet and nutrition, then you must know more about phytochemicals. So what are Phytochemicals? Phytochemicals are compounds that are found in plant-based foods and these compounds cause biological activity in your body. These chemical compounds impart the special tastes, smells, colours and other elements that make fruits and vegetables so appealing both in terms of taste, smell and the way they look.

Phytochemicals that come from a variety of food will protect you against DNA damage and also protects the body against cancer. Let us look at various phytochemicals.

Name: Capsaicin 

Possible Effects: Modulates blood clotting, possibly reducing the risk of fatal clots in heart and artery disease 

Food Source: Hot peppers 

Name: Carotenoids (including beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and hundreds of related compounds) 

Possible Effects: Act as antioxidants and reduces the risks of cancer and other diseases. 

Food Source: Richly pigmented fruits and vegetables (apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes) 

Name: Curcumin 

Possible Effects: Inhibits enzymes that activate carcinogens 

Food Source: Tumeric, a yellow-colored spice 

Name: Flavonoids (including flavones, flavonols, isoflavones, catechins and others) 

Possible Effects: Act as antioxidants; remove carcinogens; attaches to nitrates in the stomach, prevents conversion to nitrosamines; inhibits cell proliferation. 

Food Source: Berries, black tea, green tea, celery, citrus fruits, olives, onions, oregano, purple grapes, purple grape juice, soy beans and soy products, vegetables, whole wheat and wine. 

Name: Indoles 

Possible Effects: Triggers production of enzymes that block DNA damage from carcinogens; Inhibits estrogen action 

Food Source: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, mustard greens 

Name: Isothiocyanates (including sulforaphane) 
Possible Effects: Inhibits enzymes that activate carcinogens; triggers production of enzymes that detoxify carcinogens 
Food Source: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, mustard greens 

Name: Ligans 
Possible Effects: Blocks estrogen activity in cells thus reducing the risk of cancer of the breast, colon, ovaries and prostate 
Food Source: Flaxseed oil and whole grains 

Name: Monoterpenes (including limonene) 
Possible Effects: May trigger enzyme production to detoxify carcinogens; inhibits cancer promotion and cell growth
Food Source: Citrus fruit peels and oils

Name: Organosulfur compounds 

Possible Effects: Speeds production of carcinogen-destroying enzymes; slows production of carcinogen-activating enzymes 
Food Source: Chives, garlic, leeks and onions   

Name: Phenolic acids 

Possible Effects: Triggers enzyme production to make carcinogens watersoluble, facilitates excretion 

Food Source: Coffee beans, apples, blueberries, cherries, grapes, oranges, pears, prunes, oats, potatoes, soybeans

Name: Phytic acid 
Possible Effects: Binds to minerals and prevents formation of free-radicals, may also reduce cancer risk 
Food Source: Whole grains

Name: Phytoestrogens (genisteain and daidzein) 

Possible Effects: Estrogen inhibition may produce these actions; inhibit cell replication in GI tract; reduce risk of breast, colon, ovarian, prostate, and other estrogen sensitive cancers; reduce cancer cell survival. Mimicking of estrogen also greatly reduces the risk of osteoporosis. 
Food Source: Soybeans, soy flour, soy milk, tofu, textured vegetable protein and other legume products   

Name: Protease Inhibitors 
Possible Effects: May suppress enzyme production in cancer cells, slowing  tumor growth, inhibit hormone binding, inhibit malignant changes in cells 
Food Source: Broccoli sprouts, potatoes, soybeans, and other legumes, soy  products 

Name: Resveratrol 
Possible Effects: Offsets artery-damaging effects of high fat diets 
Food Source: Red wine and peanuts

Name: Saponins 
Possible Effects: May interfere with DNA replication, preventing cancer cells from multiplying, stimulating immune response 
Food Source: Alfalfa sprouts, other sprouts, green vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes 

Name: Tannins 
Possible Effects: May inhibit carcinogenic activation and cancer promotion; act as antioxidants 
Food Source: Black-eyed peas, grapes, lentils, red and white wine, tea 

Have more Flavonoids

Out of all the above phytochemicals, special mention must be made of Flavonoids – the yellow pigment found in foods such as whole grains, soy, vegetables, herbs, spices, teas, legumes, chocolates, nuts, olive oil and red wine. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants and eating more of flavonoid-rich foods such as lutein and lycopene in your diet can significantly lower your risk of chronic diseases. Phytochemicals can help you live a healthy and disease-free life. Cranberries protect against urinary tract infections, garlic lowers blood cholesterol and wards off stomach cancer. Yoghurt helps alleviate symptoms of diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, and lactose intolerance and also enhances immunity.
Having read this article and having understood the immense power that phytochemicals have in maintaining our health, think about how you can include more of these above mentioned foods in your diet plans. At the same time do not neglect to walk, exercise or do some yoga because it is the combination of good nutrition coupled with a physically active lifestyle that maintains good health throughout your life.

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