What are Phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals are nutrients found only in plants. Plants produce phytochemicals to protect themselves from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
For humans, phytochemicals can be used to help fight against cancer. At almost every step along the pathway to cancer, there are one or more phytochemicals that can slow or reverse the process. So, consuming a wide variety of phytochemicals is better for the immune system.
What are some examples of the actions of Phytochemicals?
Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower contain sulforaphane, which can help keep cancer-causing agents away from cells. Sulforaphane also boosts your body’s ability to remove cancer-causing agents. Soy contains genistein, which helps prevent cancer cells from receiving the nutrients they need to grow. Limonin and nomilin, phytochemicals in citrus fruits, can help prevent the spread of cancer throughout the body.
Cactus contains various phytochemicals such as phenolic acid and flavonoids. Research shows that cactus has anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects, while also helping to lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
Ginseng also contains a wide variety of phytochemicals, including ginsenosides and saponins. Ginseng contributes to antioxidant activity, as well as having potentially anti-diabetic effects.
Research has shown that phytochemicals can help enhance the immune system, reduce inflammation, prevent processes that lead to cancer, prevent DNA damage, and reduce oxidative damage to cells, as well as many other benefits. These are merely the effects that research has identified; there are more benefits yet to be discovered.
Why do I need a wide variety of Phytochemicals?
Every phytochemical may help inhibit certain phases of cancer. There are many pathways to cancer; a single phytochemical can only prevent one pathway. To comprehensively improve the body’s resistance to cancer, we need to consume a large amount as well as a wide variety of phytochemicals.
There are thousands of phytochemicals, and scientists have only just discovered the tip of the iceberg. So far, research strongly suggests that eating foods high in phytochemicals has a positive benefit on health, and can help prevent diseases such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes as well as certain neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Which foods contain Phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals are present in all plant foods. Fresh greens, cactus, ginseng, and fruits like blueberries are some examples of plant foods that contain a wide range of phytochemicals.
The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund has shown that a healthy lifestyle and diet alone can prevent up to 30% – 40% of cancers. Research shows that a diet containing at least 400 grams of vegetables and fruits per day can reduce the risk of various types of cancers, including cancers of the oral cavity, esophageal cancers, stomach and colon cancers. It can also reduce the risk of other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
In conclusion, we need a healthy lifestyle, complete with a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits, and regular exercise to stay healthy.