A closer look at phytochemicals

Phytochemicals (phytos) are plant chemicals. Their fundamental function is to provide protective coloring, odor and taste to the plants in which they are found. They are found in the roots, stems, leaves, fruits and seeds of plants. Every slice of tomato and every bite of apricot contain thousands of phytos, chemical tongue twisters that evolved because they protect plants from sunlight but which, through a beneficent quirk of nature, turn out to affect chemical processes in the human body. In the world where science merges with health, phytos are the next best thing. In fact, eating plenty of plant foods rich in phytos’ including vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds’may help to prevent at least one in every five cases of cancer, as well as other serious ailments such as coronary heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and various gastrointestinal disorders. Here are other findings from research studies about what phytos may do to promote health and ward off disease. Stimulate the immune system, the body’s defense against viruses, bacteria and other disease-causing agents. Block the potential for cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) to be formed in the body from substances we eat, drink and absorb from the environment. Reduce inflammation that provides a setting favorable for cancer growth. Prevent DNA damage and help with DNA repair mechanisms. Reduce oxidation, the damage to cells that occurs with aging and exposure to pollution. Slow the growth rate of cancer cells. Trigger death of damaged cells that may be precursors to cancer. And, help to regulate hormones, such as estrogen and insulin. Scientists have identified thousands of different phytos in plant foods. The National Cancer Institute is so excited it has launched a multimillion-dollar project to find, isolate and study them. Most experts agree that the body needs a variety of phytos’there are more than 25,000 of them’to stay in top form. That’s why so many nutritionists no longer stress individual ‘power foods’ but instead promote a plant-based diet. Preliminary research indicates these foods bring out the best in each other and magnify their protective effects. Like the Superfriends, they seem to work better as a team. David Heber, director of the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Human Nutrition, states that humans evolved to depend on a rich diet of 800 different plant foods. Today though most people eat three, and those are often French fries, ketchup and iceberg lettuce. He suggests that people select their nine to 13 recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables from seven color groups. Next week: Where to find phytochemicals. Facts in these articles are obtained from medical and clinical journals, scientific publications, and published tradebooks. These articles have been written and published strictly for information purposes. For any questions contact Susan at trijrsL@msn.com or www.fruitandveggienurse.com

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