Phytochemicals and Good Health

Many vegetables and fruits are known for numerous health benefits. Diets composed of five to nine serving of fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of chronic disease and other health ailments. Vegetables and fruits can supply the body of necessary nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are vital for the development and maintenance of the human body. In addition, many vegetables contain disease-fighting phytochemicals. Phytochemicals is term that is used to describe the fiber, vitamins, sugar, and other components of plants. Many research suggests that phytochemicals and other nutrients in plants, may help slow the aging process, and lessen the risk of many ailments including cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, urinary tract infections, and many more.

There are different types of phytochemicals and each works diversely in promoting improved health. Here are some types of phytochemicals and their possible health actions:

· Flavonoids – Flavanoids may aid against the damage that can be done by cholesterol. Many flavanoids are found in green tea, dark chocolate, red wine, and apples.

· Organosulfurs – Studies show that organosulfurs found in onions and garlic are able to reduce the formation of plaque in the arteries, therefore reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

· Isoflavones – Isoflavones are primarily found in soy and may be able to reduce menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis among women. Soy protein can also reduce blood pressure in men.

· Sterols – Plant sterols are known to reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol in the body. Sterols are naturally acquired from nuts, legumes, seed, and cereals.

· Proanthocyanidins – Proanthocyanidins may be able to reduce the development of urinary tract infections and may improve dental health.

· Allicin – Allicin is an antibacterial and anti-fungal compound that is found in garlic. This compound is not present in garlic in its natural state, but is developed when garlic is chopped or damaged. Allicin also helps fight arteriosclerosis, a disease that effects the the arteries.

· Lycopene – Lycopene us a proven antioxidant that slows down the aging process by eliminating free radicals that may damage the body’s cells.

Lack of fruits and vegetables deprive individuals of antioxidants and phytochemicals that are essential in promoting good health. In addition, unhealthy lifestyles and exposure to many carcinogens increases the risk of cancer and other health ailments. Smoking and excess alcohol may dehydrate the cells and cause many health ailments. Smoking exposes the body to nicotine that causes the blood vessels to develop cancer cells. Excess alcohol on the other hand dehydrates cells which may cause cancer. Air pollution and smoke from solid fuels and carcinogens in the air, may expose individuals to viruses that may cause cancer and other health difficulties.

Eating a balanced diet may provide different phytochemicals that may be essential in achieving improved health and overall well-being. Individuals do not need to eat raw fruits and vegetables to accomplish the health benefits of phytochemicals. Though some of the these compounds may be lost when cooked, many still hold their health properties. It also does not matter if the vegetables are peeled, juiced, frozen, or canned. A nutritious diet composed of fruits and vegetables, coupled with exercise may promote good health and overall health.