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What Are Phytochemicals?


  • What are phytochemicals? They are chemical substances found in plants that can help prevent diseases and cell damage
  • Over one thousand phytonutrients have already been identified
  • Phytonutrients can play many roles in keeping you healthy

What are phytochemicals? These are natural chemicals in plants that are not nutritious but that protect you and help prevent disease. Plants will produce phytochemicals as a protection device, an when you eat the plants these chemicals protect you. There are over a thousand of these substances known already, and more are being discovered all the time. Some of these substances are becoming well known, such as the lycopene that make tomatoes so good for you and the isoflavones that are found in soy. Flavanoids, which are found in fruits, are another of the well known phytonutrients. These substances are not considered essential to your life, but they can really help you stay healthy and prevent a number of different diseases.

Phytonutrients work in a number of different ways, depending on the specific substance. Many are antioxidants, and help to protect against cancer risks and other cell damages. This includes the carotenoids which you can find in carrots and many fruits, the polyphenols which are abundant in grapes and certain types of teas, the allyl sulfides contained in garlic, onions, and leeks, and the flavonoids that fruits and vegetables are known for. Other phytochemicals like isoflavones which are found in soy products help with the action of hormones in your body. What are phytochemicals called Indoles, and how do they work? This chemical is present in cabbage and will stimulate certain enzymes which can change the effectiveness of estrogen when it comes to breast cancer risks. Terpines found in cherries and citrus fruits and the protease inhibitors in beans and soybeans are both also responsible for enzyme stimulation.

Some phytochemicals can interfere with the replication of DNA. Hot peppers contain capsaicin, and this chemical will prevent carcinogens from harming your cellular DNA. Beans contain saponins, and these substances will keep cancer cells from multiplying by not allowing DNA replication. Other chemicals in plants can be a natural antibacterial, including allicin, which is found in garlic. Still others can have a physical action on your body. Proanthocyanidins are phytonutrients found in cranberries, and they bind to the cells so that bacteria can not stick to the urinary tract as easily.

Getting the right phytonutrients, and in the right amounts, means eating a wide variety of foods including plenty of fresh fruits, beans, vegetables, and whole grains. The brighter and more vivid the color of a fruit or vegetable, the more phytochemicals that fruit or vegetable will contain. The recommendations are that you should eat between five and nine servings of fruits and vegetables every single day, and you should also include whole grains and beans in your diet frequently during the week. Eating a wide variety of foods, and excluding sugar, highly processed foods, and alcohol from your diet, will expose you to the widest variety of phytochemicals possible to protect your health.

What are phytochemicals? These natural substances in plants are the key to preventing cell damage and many conditions. They may not be essential to your body but they are definitely helpful and can prevent and lower your risk for many cancers and other life threatening diseases. Phytochemicals are made by plants so that they have the ability to protect their own cells, but when we eat the plants we absorb these chemicals and in turn they protect us as well. Eat a rainbow of colors every single day and you will be amazed at how well you feel and how healthy you stay. Phytochemicals are the cellular helpers that can prevent disease and damage from happening, and at times reverse the effects when it already has happened.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.

One Response to “What Are Phytochemicals?”

  1. 1
    Nick Says:
    I had heard that the brighter the fruit or vegetable was the better it was for you. Thanks for confirming that with this article and explaining what phytochemicals were. This is a very informative piece.