Phytochemicals … polyphenols … antioxidants … what do all of these terms mean?
The term phytochemicals is a broad name for a wide variety of compounds produced by plants. They’re found in fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and other plants. Each phytochemical comes from a variety of different plant sources and has different proposed effects on, and benefits for, the body. Some researchers estimate there are up to 4,000 phytochemicals! Scientists have identified thousands of them, although only a small fraction of phytochemicals have been studied closely.
Common Names for Phytochemicals: antioxidants, flavonoids, phytonutrients, flavones, isoflavones, catechins, anthocyanidins, isothiocyanates, carotenoids, allyl sulfides, polyphenols
How Do You Get Phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals are found in plant foods (fruits, vegetables, beans, grains). By maintaining a balanced eating pattern that includes different forms and colors of fruits and vegetables, you’ll provide your body with a wide variety of all beneficial compounds, including phytochemicals! So, enjoy your fruits and veggies during every eating occasion … just fill half your plate with them and leave the rest for grains and protein.
The Health Benefits of Phytochemicals
New experimental studies are emerging that demonstrate multiple effects of fruits and vegetables (and their phytochemicals), suggesting that they may have an even greater role to play in human health than the already positive results seen to date.
Caution about Supplements: Phytochemicals, in the amounts consumed in a healthy diet, are likely to be helpful and are unlikely to cause any major problems. Some people assume that because phytochemical supplements come from “natural” sources, they must be safe and free from side effects, but this is not always true. Check with your doctor and pharmacists before consuming any phytochemical.
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