What the heck is a phytochemical?
Well, don’t you worry!
I’m about to break it down for you 🙂
Phytochemical – non nutritive chemicals found in plants
You’re probably thinking…why should I care?
Despite hearing “non nutritive,” these powerful molecules can truly impact your health in both amazing and surprising ways.
Research indicates that many of these chemicals can impact everything from your hormonal status, to your disease risk, to the medications you take, to your ability to fight off colds and infections.
Now that I have your attention, let’s dive into the learning more about phytochemicals!
Did you know that there are estimated to be thousands of different phytochemicals in our food supply?
So far, scientists have only isolated a few of these in the laboratory.
Let’s take a look at these below:
These are in foods such as soy products, flaxseed, yams, alfalfa, red clover sprouts, and licorice root. Phytoestrogens may block some cancers, aid in menopausal symptoms, and help improve memory.
These are in foods such as corn, soy, sesame, safflower, wheat, and pumpkin. Phytosterols may block hormonal role in cancers and inhibit uptake of cholesterol from the diet.
These are in foods like yams, beets, beans, cabbage, nuts, and soybeans. Saponins may prevent cancer cells from multiplying.
These are foods like carrots, yams, winter squash, sweet potatoes, apples, cantaloupe, tomatoes, spinach, kale, beets, turnips, cabbage, red chili peppers, and citrus fruits. Terpenes may have antioxidants that protect DNA from free radical-induced damage, help block UVA and UVB, help protect against cancer, promote protective enzymes in the liver, contain antiseptic properties, protect eyes from macular degeneration, and prevent carcinogens from binding to DNA.
These are foods like fennel, parsley, carrots, alfalfa, cabbage, apples, citrus fruits, broccoli, cucumbers, green peppers, and yellow/green squash. Phenols may prevent blood clotting, anti-cancer properties, antioxidant function, fight germs / bacteria, strengthen immune system, antimutagenic properties, detoxification, and act as carcinogen inhibitors.
These are in foods like onions and garlic. Sulfur compounds may promote liver enzyme activity, inhibit cholesterol synthesis, reduce triglycerides, lower blood pressure, improve immune function, and fight infection / germs / parasites.
All of these phytochemicals can also influence your response to certain drugs that you take. For example, Naringenin may inhibit the cytochrome P450 enzyme system in the liver. This system is where metabolism start for several different drugs. On of these drugs is statins. People taking statin medications for high cholesterol should avoid grapefruit because it contains naringin. Obviously, Inhibiting the breakdown of statins would cause a dangerous level to accumulate in the body.
What should you do?
After reading this, you’re probably a bit overwhelmed with all of this information and that’s ok. I typically don’t go that deep into the science, but today it was needed. The overall suggestion here is to incorporate as many of these different foods into your diet as much as possible. A diet rich in whole foods offers the best combination of micronutrients and phytochemicals. Unfortunately, most American’s eat mostly processed food which are low in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Nutrient deficiencies cause poor health and increased risk of disease, obesity, and more.
The food you choose to put in your mouth is what fuels the quality of your life.
Helping you live your best life,