One of the most important nutrient groups that can be obtained from food are the phytochemicals. Scientists have uncovered more than 5,000 different phytochemicals in whole foods and continue their search for more.

With potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, this group has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and may be effective in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and arthritis. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring chemicals found in plants that help plants to ward off disease and threats. They also provide the color in vegetables from the orange of carrots to the red of a tomato. Scientists have discovered that phytochemicals are vitally important to your health and confer an abundance of health benefits. They can prevent and help to repair cell DNA damage, fight cancer at every stage, support and protect blood vessels from damage, help detoxify cells, and enhance immune function. In a recent study, scientists demonstrated that a diet rich in broccoli and tomatoes was more effective inhibiting prostate cancer growth than a leading drug for prostate cancer, and the combination of vegetables was more powerful than either vegetable group alone.[1] Similar studies confirm these powerful benefits and the ability of the phytochemicals to reverse damaged cells. Unfortunately, modern processing techniques and cooking damage and destroy phytochemicals and strip food of its health and healing qualities. Foods considered high in phytochemicals include broccoli, kale, berries, sweet potatoes, legumes, tomatoes, garlic, flax, and citrus fruits. Scientific studies have show that eating a combination of fruits and vegetables has an additive and synergistic effect in your body that supplements cannot equal. Also, when phytochemicals are obtained from whole foods there is no risk of overdose or toxicity that can occur in the higher concentrated supplement doses.

Research is continuing to uncover compounds in natural foods that promote healthy cell activity including the larger groups of flavenoids, carotenoids, phenolic acids and other anti-oxidants. Following is a very short list of the health promoting compounds in fresh, naturally occurring foods that is not intended to overwhelm you with difficult scientific names but rather to give you a flavor of this broad and powerful group of compounds. For example anthocyanins in acai berries and cherries act as a strong anti-oxidant, sitosterol and quercetin in apples have an anti-inflammatory/anti-oxidant effect, resveratrol in nuts and seeds and dark colored grapes is an anti-oxidant with reported anti-aging effects, lutein in grapefruit and okra is an anti-oxidant that supports the eyes and prevents blindness, and zeaxanthin in spinach and watermelon protects against macular degeneration.

1. Canene-Adams K, Lindshield B, Shihua W, et al. Combinations of Tomoato and Broccoli enhance anti-tumor activity in Dunning R3327-H Prostate Adenocarcinoma. Cancer Research 67, 836-843, January 15, 2007