- Phytochemicals are plant-derived compounds that are present in fruits, vegetables, beans, cereals, and plant-based beverages such as tea and wine. They are believe to confer disease protection. Some phytochemicals have either antioxidant or hormone-like actions. There is evidence that some phytochemicals prevent cancers by interfering with carcinogens.
- Phytochemicals are broken up into Phenolic acids, Flavonoids, and Stilbenes/Lignans.
- Flavonoids are further broken up into Anthocyanins/Flavones/Isoflavones/Flavonones and under a separate group, the Flavanols.
- Flavonols include Catechins, epicatechins, and the proanthocyanidins.
- Flavonoids are the largest and most diverse group of phytochemicals and contribute to the decreased mortality in people who consume large amounts of plant-based foods. The more flavonoids you consume, the lower the risk of a heart attack!
- Flavonoids act by inhibiting xanthine oxidase and arachidonic acid metabolism in the body.
Chart of flavonoids Below:
Class of flavonoid Example Common Food Source
Flavonol ————-Quercetin ———Apples, Onions
Flavanol ————Catechin ———Tea, Coffee, Chocolate
Isoflavone ———– Genistein ———Soy
Flavonone ———— Hesperitin ——— Grapefruit
Anthocyanidin ——–Cyanidin ———- Berries
- A diet high in fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables of multiple colors, shapes, and types optimizes health benefits from diet.
- Carotenoids, which give carrots, yams, cantaloupe, butternut squash, and apricots their orange color, are promoted as anti-cancer agents . Tomatoes, red peppers, and pink grapefruit contain lycopene, which proponents claim is a powerful antioxidant (see Lycopene). The phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in spinach, kale, and turnip greens that may reduce the risk of some cancers. Another group of phytochemicals, called allyl sulfides, are found in garlic and onions. These compounds may stimulate enzymes that help the body get rid of harmful chemicals and strengthen the immune system. Some polyphenols (including some flavonoids) act as antioxidants. These are thought to rid the body of harmful molecules known as free radicals, which can damage a cell’s DNA and may trigger some forms of cancer and other diseases. These compounds are commonly found in teas and in vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. Grapes, eggplant, red cabbage, and radishes all contain anthocyanidins — flavonoids that are thought to act as antioxidants and may protect against some cancers and heart disease. Quercetin is another flavonoid that appears to have antioxidant properties and is found in apples, onions, teas, and red wine. Ellagic acid, found in raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, and walnuts,may have anti-cancer effects. Red clover, garbanzo beans, soy, and licorice and the lignans found in flaxseed and whole grains have isoflavones that are similar to estrogens and may play a role in protecting the body against some hormonal-sensitive cancers.
Benefits of Phytochemicals are discussed below:
Soy Beans, Soy Milk, and Tofu have Isoflavones (Genistein and
Daidzein) and may cause a reduction in blood pressure and
increased vessel dilation.
Strawberries, Red Wine,Blueberries have
Anthocyanins that cause an improvement of vision, inhibition of nitric
oxide production, induction of apoptosis (cell death), decreased platelet aggregation, and give neuroprotective effects.
Red Wine, Grape Juice, Grape Extracts, Cocoa have
Proanthocyanidins and flavan-3-ols which cause inhibition of LDL oxidation, inhibition of cellular oxygenases, and inhibition of proinflammatory responses in the arterial wall.
Garlic, onions, leeks, olives, scallions have sulfides and thiols that decrease LDL cholesterol.
Carrots, tomatoes, and tomato products, and various types of fruits and vegetables have carotenoids such as lycopene and beta-carotenes which neutralize the free radicals that cause
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, such as kale and horseradish, have isothiocyanates(such as sulforaphane). They cause the neutralization of free radicals that cause cell damage and protection against some cancers.
- There is no recommended daily allowance of phytochemicals. Supplements are not proven to be helpful, but rather a balanced diet with large amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are best for health.
- The plant kingdom has a number of sterols that are different from cholesterol by variations in chemical structure. The primarty ones are sitosterol, stigmasterol and campesterol. sitosterol appears to lower cholesterol and inhibit the formation of atherosclerosis. Sitostanol, a saturated sitosterol derivative, reduces the absorption of cholesterol and decreases blood cholesterol. Some margarine brands started to have stanols or sterol esters added in the hopes it may decrease cholesterol.
- There are cholesterol-lowering alcohols in rice bran oils.
- Sitosterols and squalene are present in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated vegetable oils and may be responsible for some of the cholesterol-lowering effects.
- Cafestol is a terpene present in coffee that may positively impact cholesterol levels.
http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/phytochemicals < Some information about phytochemicals
The bottom line is eating fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains may reduce the risk of cancers. Its not the particular phytochemical supplement that you choose, but rather following a well diversified diet containing a variety of foods that is protective to the individual.