Phytochemicals

1. What are Phytochemicals
2. Benefits of Phytochemicals
3. Flavanoids
4. Saponins
5. Carotenoids
6. Glucosinolates
7. Phytochemical Smoothies

Just as people are prone to viruses, bacteria, and diseases, so are plants. People have an immune system to fight diseases while plants have developed their own form of immune system; protective substances called phtyochemicals. More and more studies are showing that phytochemicals from plants can also help to protect people from a variety of cancers as well as diseases.

Some of the most protective of these foods include whole grains, dark and leafy green colored fruits and vegetables, legumes, orange, yellow, and red colored fruits and vegetables, cruciferous vegetables and anti-bacterial vegetables.

Phytochemical Benefits

 

Evidence from studies suggests that some phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables can reduce cancer risk. This could be due either to the fibers in the foods, polyphenol antioxidants or anti-inflammatory effects. Phytochemicals have been used for health for centuries.

For instance, Salicin, with its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, was originally an extract of white willow trees; later it was produced synthetically and became the staple OTC drug we call Aspirin.

Another example is an important cancer drug, Taxol (paclitaxel); this is a phytochemical extracted and purified from the Pacific yew tree.

Diindolylmethane, a phytochemical from Brassica vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts), is in clinical trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute for a range of cancers (breast, prostate, lung, colon, and cervical).

Lycopene, found in tomatoes has been tested in clinical trials for cardiovascular diseases and prostate cancer. (The FDA concluded: “Very limited and preliminary scientific research suggests that eating one-half to one cup of tomatoes and/or tomato sauce a week may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. The FDA concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim.”)

Some phytochemicals with medicinal properties may be elements, rather than complex organic molecules. Selenium for example is abundant in Brassica vegetables which may have anti-viral and anti-cancer properties.

Selenium is a cofactor element for synthesis of glutathione, a potent and important antioxidant manufactured primarily in the liver.

For more specific phytochemicals benefits, refer to the sections below.


Flavonoids

 

Blackberries contain flavanoidsFruits and vegetables that are dark in color consist of a big group of substances that contain something known as flavonoids. Flavonoids are found to be plentiful in a variety of fruits and vegetables which include blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, bilberries, cranberries, red grapes, red grapes, apples, onions, broccoli, peppers and eggplant.

There are estimated to be well over 4,000 flavonoids in existence and they are then broken down into a variety of subcategories, which include anthocyanidins, polyphenolic acid, proanthocyanidins, ellagic acid, tannins and quercetic.

Research studies into dark colored fruits and vegetables have shown that they are all very powerful when it comes to anti-oxidant properties and some are believed to have 50 times the anti-oxidant capability of both vitamin E as well as vitamin C.

Further studies have yielded the results that flavonoids found in both fruits and vegetables are helpful in decreasing the risk of a variety of cancers as well as diabetes, arthritis and atherosclerosis.

Flavonoids are beneficial when it comes to protecting the collagen protein found in blood vessels and joints from the damage that can be done by free radicals in the body. By protecting the collagen protein this is a way to reduce the incidence of hemorrhoids, edema and varicose veins.

A study done at Cornell University yielded the result that the flavonoids found in apples, known as quercetin, was effective at protecting the brains against the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease which are both classified as being neuro-generative diseases.

This study was a follow-up to another study that was conducted at the same university by Professor Lee. Professor Lee discovered that the phytochemical found in both a variety of berries as well as apples had a greater “antioxidant protective effect” than did vitamin C when it came to fighting liver cancer cells and colon cancer cells.

While blueberries and strawberries both have excellent anti-oxidant properties, blueberries have an estimated 40 percent more power to fight off diseases and t o heal.

In a study done by neuroscientist James Joseph from Tufts University it was found that blueberries are excellent when it comes to fighting cancer and a multitude of diseases but they are also helpful in preventing or slowing short-term memory loss which can affect individuals as they age.

Fresh produce is the best to buy, with frozen being the second best. Canned fruits and vegetables tend to have a great deal of salt in them so opt for fresh if possible. For a change in paste whip up a salad with a variety of vegetables (and some fruits thrown in to add some tang) or whip up a delectable fruit salad for yourself and your family to enjoy.

Saponins

 


Green SoybeansRecent findings from a study at the University of Illinois showed that the phytochemical saponins that are found in plentiful supply in navy beans, soybeans and garbanzo beans help to greatly decrease the risk of colon cancer developing.

Research studies looking at women in China and Japan have noted that these women eat a great deal of isoflavones which are found in chickpeas, soybeans and a number of other kinds of legumes. These populations have lower rates of osteoporosis and heart disease and also suffer exhibit less symptoms of menopause than do women who live in the western world who do not consume as many legumes on a consistent basis.

Legumes are a part of the vegetable family and they include such foods as peas, beans, soybeans and lentils. Legumes are a must for healthy meals because they are rich in both fiber as well as folate. Legumes are translated into a complete protein when they are combines with any variety of whole grains such as barley, oats, wheat and rice.

In case you did not already know, legumes are full of phytochemicals, lignans, isoflavones, phytosterols and saponins. Legumes are believed to help to prevent the onset of colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer.

One type of legume is soybeans and soybeans are rich in substances that destroy vitamin B-1, vitamin D and beta-carotene. Both peas as well as beans combine a compound that is anti-vitamin D in nature.

Due to these things it is recommended that the consumption of legumes is balanced as sufficiently as possible with the consumption of yellow vegetables, dark green vegetables, fresh fruits and whole grain cereals in order to make sure an individual receives an adequate amount of beta-carotene and vitamin B-12.

It is believed that the high soluble fiber found in legumes helps to lower levels of LDL or “bad cholesterol.” It is well documented by medical studies that soybeans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans and a selection of other legumes can aid in lowering cholesterol as long as they are eaten on a more or less regular basis. It is believed that legumes are helpful because they are high in fiber but also because they contain a substance called pectin.

In one study conducted by Doctor James W. Anderson of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in Lexington, the male participants were instructed to eat one and a half cps of cooked beans on a daily basis. In only three weeks it was shown that the men’s cholesterol levels had decreased by 20 percent.


Carotenoids

 

Fruit and vegetables at a local market in Vietnam, including carrotsCarotenoids can be found in all of the plant foods that you can think of in varying quantities. As a general rule of thumb, the more brilliant the color is of a fruit or vegetable the more carotenoids it contains, and for optimum health more is better.

Carotenoids are very rich in antioxidants and are to be found in many delicious tasting fruits and vegetables such as oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, summer squash and many more. Carotenoids are composed of three phytochemicals which include beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and alpha-carotene.

Carotenoids often do not get discussed as often as they should be as they provide a number of amazing benefits to the human body. Carotenoids help the body to ward off infections and bacteria and they include the growth of new tissue as well as the repair of tissue when it is damaged. Some carotenoids such as the beta-carotenoids are able to be converted into vitamin A in order to optimize their benefits to health.

Carotenoids are very strong in the antioxidant department and are extremely effective at preventing the development of free radical cells that can easily gain access to DNA in the body and destroy it by way of the oxidation process. For this reason carotenoids are thought to be effective in the fight against cancer development.


Glucosinolates

Cruciferous vegetables hail from the vegetable group called “Brassica” and this group contains the veggies broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and a variety of others. Some people fondly refer to cruciferous vegetables as “tree vegetables.”

These kinds of vegetables have in them a special sulfur compound, which is known as glucosinolates. When this sulfur compound is prepared for a meal such as by chopping, slicing and then by chewing, the phytochemicals, indoles and isothiocynantes are released which is a good thing.

Eating a large amount of cruciferous vegetables on a regular basis has been shown through research studies to lower a persons risk of developing colon cancer as well as lung cancer.

It is strongly believed by researchers that glucosinalte hydrolysis has a way of modifying how the sex hormones are metabolized in the body in such a manner that it directly has an impact on the hormones that play a role in the development of cancers, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Anti-bacterial vegetables derive from a subgroup of cruciferous vegetables known as thiosulfonates. Anti-bacterial vegetables are such vegetables as onions, leeks, garlic and shallots. Although these vegetables are extremely good for the human body they get a bad rap due to their strong sulfur odor and the way they leave your breath smelling after eating them.

Nevertheless foods such as onions and garlic are excellent at fighting a variety of bacteria and viruses. The phytochemical allylic sulfides are found in these types of vegetables and they are effective at blocking the toxins that develop as a result of a variety of viruses and bacteria.

Allylic sulfides are excellent at lowering the incidence of a number of different kinds of cancer and they also lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and help to strengthen the immune system.


Phytochemical Smoothies

 

Fruit for Phytochemical SmoothiesSmoothies are an easy and fast way to add a massive mix of phytonutrients to your daily diet. Just chop up the ingredients, toss them in a blender and push a button.

These thick drinks can be made creamier with the addition of a little yogurt or soy milk. If you are watching calories, blend them with just the fruit juice.

Customize your smoothie with the perfect fresh ingredients for healing, detoxification or immune system boosts.

Here are a few recipes to try.

Blueberry Detox Smoothie

      ½ cup blueberries

 

      1/3 cup blackberries

 

      handful of black currants

 

      1 banana

 

    ½ cup apple juice

Watermelon Zing

      2 grated carrots

 

      juice of 1 lime

 

      ½ small watermelon, cut in slices

 

      handful chopped walnuts

 

    ¼ cup fresh mint leaves

Bell Tomato

      6 tomatoes

 

      1 red or yellow bell pepper

 

      1 lemon

 

      1 stick celery

 

      ½ inch of ginger root

 

    1 clove garlic (optional)

Tomatoes Image by viZZZual.com, Creative Commons License.
Blackberries Image by Darwin Bell, Creative Commons License.
Green Soybeans Image by Kanko, Creative Commons License.
Carotenoids image by Anne-Katrin Purkiss, Wellcome Images, Creative Commons License.
Smoothie Fruit Image by Jess Lander, Creative Commons License.
Thanks to All!