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Excuse me? Phytochemicals. What Are They? What are they for? Where to Find Them?

Excuse me? Phytochemicals. What Are They? What are they for? Where to Find Them?

Hello lovely curious people!

In my pursue for a healthier life, I do a lot of research to know more and more about all matters around my diet and health, so I can get the best results. Some time ago, I came across some technical names, that I found out to be phytochemicals. Let me share with you in a quick simple version what I’ve discovered about these interesting compounds.

What Are Phytochemicals?

Phytochemicals are natural chemicals found in plant foods. Plants produce them to protect themselves from environmental toxins and pests. Many of these compounds have been shown to have beneficial effects on human health, like reducing the risk of chronic disease, and improving overall well-being. Some phytochemicals are even effective at preventing cancer. Some phytochemicals act as antioxidants, protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals. Other phytochemicals reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and boost the immune system.

While the exact mechanisms by which phytochemicals exert their health benefits are not fully understood, there is no doubt that these compounds play an important role in maintaining human health. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure adequate intake of these beneficial compounds.

Phytochemicals Groups:

Phytochemicals can be divided into six main groups:

  1. Alkaloids
  2. Betalains
  3. Phytosterols
  4. Polyphenols
  5. Sulfur Compounds
  6. Terpenes

1) Alkaloids:

Alkaloids are a group of naturally occurring nitrogen-containing compounds. Many alkaloids have been shown to have significant health benefits. For example, caffeine is an alkaloid that acts as a stimulant, increasing alertness and energy levels. Other alkaloids, such as quinine, are effective against malaria. And some alkaloids, such as morphine, are used as pain relievers.

2) Betalains:

Betalains are a group of pigments that give red and yellow fruits and vegetables their color. These pigments have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that betalains may help to protect cells from damage, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health.

3) Phytosterols:

Phytosterols are a group of compounds that are structurally similar to cholesterol. These compounds are found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Phytosterols have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and improve heart health.

 

4) Polyphenols:

Polyphenols are a group of plant compounds that have powerful antioxidant properties. These compounds can help to protect cells from damage, reduce inflammation, and improve overall health. Polyphenols are found in various plant foods, including green tea, dark chocolate, and red wine.

5) Sulphur Compounds:

Sulfur compounds are a group of naturally occurring chemicals that contain sulfur. These compounds have been shown to have a variety of health benefits, including reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system, and protecting against cancer. Sulfur compounds are found in garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables.

6) Terpenes:

Terpenes are a group of compounds that give plants their characteristic scent. These compounds have also been shown to have health-promoting properties. For example, limonene, a terpene found in citrus fruits, has been shown to boost the immune system. And linalool, a terpene found in lavender, has been shown to have anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.

Where To Find Them?

You can find phytochemicals in various plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Although they are not essential nutrients, they produce many health benefits as I’ve mentioned before.

Many phytochemicals are currently being studied for their potential health benefits. Some common sources of phytochemicals include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, onions, tomatoes, and soybeans. Fruits and vegetables that are brightly colored are often high in phytochemicals. So, incorporating a variety of these foods into your diet is a good way to increase your intake of these beneficial compounds.

Therefore, eat your veggies, nuts and fruits and enjoy the health benefits they provide!

How Many Do You Need?

There is no Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for phytochemicals. However, consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure adequate intake of these beneficial compounds. Fruits and vegetables are not only rich in phytochemicals, but they also contain many other nutrients that are essential for good health. So, aim to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Can You Get Too Much?

Phytochemicals are not toxic, and there is no evidence to suggest that they can cause any adverse effects. However, consuming large amounts of certain phytochemicals may not be beneficial. For example, taking large doses of beta-carotene supplements has been linked to smokers’ increased risk of lung cancer. So, it’s best to get your phytochemicals from whole food sources.

What If You Don’t Get Enough?

Phytochemicals are not essential nutrients, so you will not experience any adverse effects if you don’t consume enough of these compounds. However, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure adequate intake of these beneficial compounds, which again bring clear health benefits to you.

Does Anybody Need Supplements?

No, there is no need to take phytochemical supplements. These compounds are found in a variety of plant foods, so it’s easy to get enough of them through diet alone. Taking large doses of certain phytochemicals may not be beneficial and may even be harmful. So, it’s best to get your phytochemicals from whole food sources.

Conclusion

Phytochemicals are beneficial chemicals found in plants. They function as antioxidants and play a role in plant signaling pathways. Phytochemicals can be found in many fruits and vegetables, making them a key part of a healthy diet. When shopping for produce, look for brightly colored fruits and vegetables, as these typically have the highest levels of phytochemicals. So, eat up and enjoy all the delicious benefits nature offers!

Get free recipe books with delicious healthy desserts and cakes, here!

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