Though phytochemicals are not considered ‘essential nutrients’, it has become apparent that they offer many health benefits. These chemicals offer protection to many chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Research shows that phytochemicals are able to reduce the oxidative damage to our cells that causes various diseases like cancer. Foods such as grapes, dark chocolate and carotenoids, sweet potatoes and green leafy vegetables are examples of phytochemicals full of cancer fighting antioxidant material. The phytochemical found in garlic called allicin contains antibacterial properties. This is the reason why many people have used garlic for thousands of years to fight a cold.
Various phytochemical have the ability to alter enzyme functioning in a way the helps stave off disease. The chemical indole-3-carbonyl is found in cabbage, broccoli and kale, stimulates the enzymes that reduce the effectiveness of estrogen, thereby reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Some plant compounds such as isoflavones present in soy, can directly alter how hormones (such as estrogen) behave in the progression of disease. Isolated isoflavones actually have been found to regulate hormonal action. Isolated isoflavones have unpredictable hormonal actions in the body and that can be risky business. That is why I am concerned with highly processed soy products that boast benefits!
The best way to give your diet a phytochemical boost is to load up your grocery cart with more fruits and vegetables! I recommend at least 10 daily servings of produce to be sure you are consuming plenty of these disease fighters. Pick multiple coloured fruits and vegetables, as the different pigment plays host to different chemicals.