Nutrition and DietWhat are phytochemicals?

What are phytochemicals?

Phytochemicals are protective substances that we find in foods of plant origin.  Find out what they are, the types that exist and what their nutritional qualities are.

Within a varied and balanced diet, but above all healthy and healthy, it is very important to include daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, and weekly several servings of legumes and foods rich in fiber. Mainly because they are especially rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients such as water, carbohydrates and antioxidants.

However, other substances – perhaps – less well known than those mentioned above, and which are called phytochemicals, also stand out.

They basically consist of substances found in foods of plant origin (such as fruits, vegetables, legumes …), which, although they are not essential nutrients for life, do have positive health effects, being biologically active.

Benefits of phytochemicals:

  • Cardiovascular protection: they prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, reducing the synthesis and use of cholesterol, positively affecting blood pressure and blood clotting.
  • Protection against cancer: they prevent carcinogenic substances from reaching critical destinations within cells. That is, they neutralize free radicals on the one hand, while on the other they are capable of inhibiting enzymes that activate carcinogens.
  • They favor the elimination of toxins and mutagens.

Types of phytochemicals:

There are basically 4 types of existing phytochemicals:

  • Phenols: they have antioxidant protection. They are flavonoids, isoflavones and anthocyanins.
  • Lignans: present in flax seeds, barley, oats and wheat bran.
  • Terpenes: they have antioxidant power. They are carotenes, lycopene’s and limuloids.
  • Thiols: are the indoles, dithiolthions and isothiocyanates.

Where to find phytochemicals?

  • Phenols: blackberries, raspberries, berries, apples, red and yellow onions, broccoli, red grapes, soybeans, and other legumes.
  • Lignans: oats, flax seeds, barley and wheat bran.
  • Terpenes: pumpkin, carrot, mango, papaya, spinach, melon, grapefruit and tomato.
  • Thiols: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onion, and leeks.

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