Thursday, September 23, 2010


What are they?
Also known as antioxidants, flavonoids, flavones, isoflavones, catechins, anthocyanidins, isothiocyanates, carotenoids, allyl sulfides, polyphenols...

Phytochemicals are plant made compounds that are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and other plant-based foods.

The most common ones are beta carotene, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), folic acid, and vitamin E.

How they gained popularity...
Historically, cultures that consume such a diet have lower rates of certain cancers and heart disease.

  • For example, the relatively low rates of breast and endometrial cancers in some Asian cultures are credited at least in part to dietary habits.
  • These cancers are much more common in the United States, possibly because the typical American diet is higher in fat and lower in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains.

Phytochemicals are beneficial because they may reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. 

The Science and the Evidence...
It is not well known what particular phytochemicals are responsible for prevention of diseases; however, there is evidence that suggests plant foods play a role.

How much should I eat?
Its easy to get phytochemicals by eating fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
  • A carrot contains more than a hundred phytochemicals.
  • 5 or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables, along with foods from a variety of other plant sources such as nuts, seeds, whole grain cereals, and beans is likely to be more effective in reducing cancer risk than consuming one particular phytochemical in large amounts. 
  • There are thousands of known phytochemicals, but only a few have been studied in detail.
  • Dietary supplements are available but most evidence suggests supplements are not as beneficial as food.  
This information was gathered from the American Cancer Association's website.

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