The Disease Fighters
Benefits of phytonutrients diet
Plant foods contain thousands of natural chemicals. These are called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. ‘Phyto’ refers to the Greek word for plant. These chemicals help protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs and other threats. These bioactive non nutrient plant compounds in fruits, vegetables, grains and other plant foods are powerful and healthy components.
• Act as antioxidants-protect our cell against oxidative damage and reduce the incidence of developing certain types of cancer (carotene, flavonoids and polyphenols
• Modulation of hormone metabolism- isoflavones, found in soy, imitate human estrogen and help to reduce menopausal syndrome.
• Modulation of detoxification enzymes- inhibition of enzymes involved in activation of carcinogens
• Stimulation of immune metabolism- helps improve immunity
• Antibacterial and antiviral effect
More than 25,000 phytonutrients are found in plant foods. Following are the five important classes of phytonutrients and their potential health effects:
More than 600 carotenoids provide yellow, orange and red colours in fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids act as antioxidants in your body. This means they tackle harmful free radicals that damage tissues throughout your body. The types of carotenoids that may have other health benefits include: Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Your body can convert all of these to vitamin A. This vitamin helps keeping your immune system in proper working condition and it’s needed for eye health. Yellow and orange foods like pumpkins and carrots are good sources of alpha- and beta-carotene.
A large number of phytonutrients fall into the flavonoid category. They are found in a variety of plant foods.
The types of flavonoids include:
Green tea is an especially good source of catechins. The drink may help prevent certain types of cancer.
: It is found in citrus fruits and fruit juices, such as oranges and orange juice, grape fruit and grapefruit juices, tangerines, lemons, lime, etc. This flavonoid works as an antioxidant. It can reduce inflammation in the body. It may also help reduce the risk of cancer.
: Quercetin is a well-studied type of flavonol. It is found in apples, berries, grapes, onions
Resveratrol is found in grapes, black currants juice. It acts as an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory qualities. Some research suggests that resveratrol might reduce the risk of heart disease
and cancer. It may help extend people’s life spans.
Plant polyphenols are a large group of natural antioxidants. Research suggests, they are powerful antioxidants with potential health benefits. Sources include blueberries, raspberries, prunes, red grapes, red grape juice, kiwifruit, apple juice, tomatoes, etc.