Phytochemicals are substances found in plants that are capable of providing health-promoting properties, such as antioxidants. Watch now.
Phytochemicals, also referred to as phytonutrients, are substances found in plants in small amounts that are not essential nutrients but may have health-promoting properties. Although the health benefits of phytochemicals are still under scientific investigation, there are some prominent functions and therefore potential benefits worth mentioning. One well- known property of phytochemicals is their potential to act as and support the function of antioxidants. They can also mimic hormones, alter absorption of cholesterol, inhibit inflammatory responses, and block the actions of certain enzymes.
Here are some potential health benefits that may result from a few well-known phytochemicals: Carotenoids found in yellow-orange fruits and vegetables, as well as in dark green leafy vegetables may possess strong cancer-fighting properties. Indoles found in cruciferous vegetables like bok choy and broccoli may inhibit the development of cancer-causing hormones and prevent tumor growth. Phytoestrogens found in berries, soybeans, and garlic may lower the risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, breast cancer, and menopausal symptoms. Saponins found in legumes like kidney beans and lentils may decrease blood lipids, lower cancer risks, and lower the blood glucose response. Flavonoids found in various fruits, vegetables, chocolates, nuts, and seeds may benefit the immune system and prevent cancer cell growth.
It is the mixture and variety of phytochemicals in food acting in conjunction with each other and with other micronutrients that are linked to their health promoting benefits. Therefore, supplementation of phytochemicals in isolation may limit their health promoting properties. This is yet another reason to include whole plant-based foods in your diet.
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