And What Is Phytochemical (Phytonutrient)?
Phytochemical refers to the compounds found in plants that are powerfully beneficial in protecting human from diseases.
What is Phytochemical/Phytonutrient?
Don’t be alarmed – they’re not toxic agents produced by some huge chemical company, as the name might suggest. Phytochemicals are natural compounds found in the fruits and vegetables we eat (or should eat) every day. “Phyto” comes from the Greek word “phuton” meaning “plants” hence the chemical/nutrient found in plants are called phytochemical or phytonutrient. The terms are used interchangeably but “phytonutrient” is increasingly becoming more popular for the positive association with “nutrient” rather than “chemical”.
Phytochemicals refer to the natural chemical compounds found in plants that make up its color. Phytochemicals help give an orange its orange color and make a strawberry red. More importantly, they may protect us from some of the most deadly diseases that threaten us – diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
There are many phytochemicals and each works differently. These are some possible actions:
Antioxidant – Most phytochemicals have antioxidant activity and protect our cells against oxidative damage and reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Phytochemicals with antioxidant activity: allyl sulfides (onions, leeks, garlic – all of them highly beneficial for the male health), carotenoids (fruits, carrots), flavonoids (fruits, vegetables), polyphenols (tea, grapes).
Hormonal action – Isoflavones, found in soy, imitate human estrogens and help to reduce menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis.
Stimulation of enzymes – Indoles, which are found in cabbages, stimulate enzymes that make the estrogen less effective and could reduce the risk for breast cancer. Other phytochemicals, which interfere with enzymes, are protease inhibitors (soy and beans), terpenes (citrus fruits and cherries).
Interference with DNA replication – Saponins found in beans interfere with the replication of cell DNA, thereby preventing the multiplication of cancer cells. Capsaicin, found in hot peppers, protects DNA from carcinogens.
Anti-bacterial effect – The phytochemical allicin from garlic has anti-bacterial properties.
Physical action – Some phytochemicals bind physically to cell walls thereby preventing the adhesion of pathogens to human cell walls. Proanthocyanidins are responsible for the anti-adhesion properties of cranberry. Consumption of cranberries will reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and will improve dental health.
Phytochemical is not a necessity to our body function, nor do they cause any diseases resulting from deficiency. Thus they cannot be classified as vitamins. But phytochemical has been proven over and over again, to be beneficial for human health, not only in preventing diseases, but also in reversing some disorders.
Unlike most vitamins and enzymes, phytochemicals are not destroyed by preparation techniques such as chopping, extracting, cooking or grating.
In fact, sometimes preparation may even make the phytonutrients more readily available to us. For example, the sulfur compounds from garlic or onions are released when chopped and exposed to air. Or lycopene in tomatoes become more concentrated when processed and made into tomato sauce.
It is estimated that there are tens of thousands of phytochemicals. However, only about 1,000 of these were identified and only about a hundred were actually analyzed and tested.
Recent researches have found that all plants contain compounds that protect them from diseases. When we eat these plants, the very same protective compounds, called phytochemicals, are made available to our bodies. In the same way, it protects our bloodstream, cells, tissues, membranes, organs and immune functions from diseases.
How Does Phytonutrient Work?
Studies after studies have shown that individuals with high intake of the four plant-based food groups – fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – have a much lower risk of degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, etc.
How does phytonutrient help prevent these diseases?
To understand this, we need to backtrack a little and understand how diseases are formed. An example: When free radicals run rampant in our body, through the air we breathe, the food we eat, or merely from stress, they cause deterioration and destruction of our healthy cells. This process ultimately result in degenerative diseases in the weakest parts of our body that succumb to the attack.
When we eat food that has phytonutrient, it will quickly activate a group of enzymes that go around cleaning up the free radicals before they cause any harm to the body. In very much the same way, it works like the anti-oxidant. In fact, many phytonutrients are anti-oxidant.
How Much Phytonutrients Do We Need?
As I mentioned above, phytonutrient is not a necessity for our body, but yet we must eat much of it for all its health benefits. You get a variety of phytonutrient from a variety of fruits and vegetables for their different protections of diseases and cancers.
Eat more of the following foods; they are loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants:
Phytochemical Bomb Smoothie
By July 22, 2013Published:
- Yield: 2 Servings
- Prep: 5 mins
FormulaOZ' quick to make Phytonutrient smoothie has all the natural goodness of whole vegis phytochemicals and is packed full of healthy testosterone boosting nutrients, electrolytes and fibre.
- 1 Tomato
- 1/2 cup Spinach
- small piece Turmeric
- 1/4 cup Coriander
- 1/2 cup Coconut Juice
- Piperine from FormulaOZ
- 1/2 Capsicum
- Add all ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.
- Add Protein powder if desired. I enjoy this smoothie with couple boiled eggs instead.
Tomatoes 1 tomato: 26 calories, 0 g fat Technically a fruit, tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, an important antioxidant that helps fight cancer and gives tomatoes their red color. Tomatoes are also a great source of vitamin C.
Spinach 1 cup, cooked: 41 calories, 0 g fat. Spinach is loaded with iron, folate and B vitamins. In addition, spinach contains two phytochemicals, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important to eye health. And small amount of protein. Spinach is my favorite ingredient for power charging green smoothies.
Nuts 1 oz: 150 calories, 12 g fat Although they are high in fat, nuts contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat (the good fats). When eaten in place of red meat and high fat junk food, nuts can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol). Nuts also contain vitamin E, an antioxidant that may help ward off heart disease and cancer. Unfortunately nuts are high in calories, be sure to eat them by the handful…not the bowlful!
Broccoli 1 cup, cooked: 44 calories, 0 g fat Broccoli is rich in vitamin C, fiber and a good source of calcium. It provides several phytochemicals that aid in the fight against cancer. Excessive cooking will destroy most of broccoli’s important nutrients, be sure to cook light! For a bodybuilding diet tip – broccoli is also best friend veg for cutting stage to get the ripped body.
Blueberries 1 cup: 81 calories, 0 g fat It is possible that blueberries contain more antioxidants than any other fruit or vegetable. Anthocyanin is the phytochemical that puts the “blue” in blueberry. It is also a health-promoting compound that fights cancer and heart disease. Another blueberry benefit: like cranberries, they help prevent urinary tract infections by making it hard for bacteria to stick to the urinary tract walls.
Green tea. In Asian societies, green tea is consumed in about the same quantity as coffee in the West. Population studies in China link green tea with a lower risk of stomach, esophageal and liver cancer. Polyphenol, a phytochemical in green tea, has been identified as the cancer-fighting agent. As an antioxidant, polyphenol is 100 times more potent than vitamin C. Read my articles about benefits of Green Tea Matcha Powder, secret ingredient for bodybuilding and anti-aging.
These are just a few foods containing phytochemicals and antioxidants. There are actually about 2000 different phytochemicals found in food! To take full advantage of phytochemicals and antioxidants, be sure to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains in your diet.
And don’t forget to look beyond produce to the other phytonutrient-dense foods like beans and spices. Beans are a miracle food, they lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and insulin production, promote digestive health, and protect against cancer. If you think of fiber, protein, and antioxidants and immediately think whole grains, meat, and fruit, think again – beans offer all three in a single package.
Turmeric ( testosterone boosting spice), ginger, coriander, cumin and fennel are just a few of the spices containing phytonutrients. Cinnamon has been found to help control blood sugar and improve insulin resistance in diabetics. Paprika may help raise good cholesterol, and ginger, coriander and cumin may promote healthy digestion.