Phytochemicals are micronutrients; chemicals produced naturally by plants to stay healthy. Phytochemicals help protect plants from harmful ultra-violet light of the sun and insects, and give them their colour, smell and taste. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are chock-full with nutritious phytochemicals. Plant-based beverages such as tea and wine also contain these bioactive compounds.
With their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, phytochemicals improve our bodies’ immunity towards diseases. A diet rich in phytochemicals reduces the risk for heart disease and cancer. Their free radical scavenging properties help them to improve endothelial function and increased vascular blood flow.
As of recent research, about 10,000 different phytochemicals have been identified, and there are many left undiscovered. They can be broken into various groups based on their chemical structure.
The largest class of phytochemicals is called flavonoids, and they play a crucial role in decreasing the risk of disease in human bodies through physiologic mechanisms. Other classes of phytochemicals are phenolic acids and stilbenes/lignans.
Some foods rich in phytochemicals are –
soybeans, berries, grapes, apples, olives, tomatoes & tomato products, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage and kale.