Besides vitamins, minerals and fiber, plant foods contain substances known as phytochemicals, which protect plants from the ravages of sunlight, wind and other damages caused by Mother Nature (Phyto comes from the Greek word for plant). Although phytochemicals have no known nutritional value, some appear to have disease-fighting properties.
Phytochemicals have been a hot subject of scientific research in recent years. Garlic, soybeans, licorice root, broccoli, carrots and tomatoes are just a few of the many foods that have been analyzed by scientists, who are exploring how phytochemicals might help prevent cancer and other diseases.
Although researchers are just beginning to understand how phytochemicals work, they believe that some may keep cancer cells from forming or attaching to healthy cells. They may also help neutralize cancer causing toxins, such as cigarette smoke and pollutants. Some of the phytochemicals that may be linked to disease prevention include:
–Capsaicin found in peppers
–Coumarins in citrus fruit and tomatoes
–Flavonoids, also in citrus fruit and tomatoes, as well as berries, peppers and carrots
–Indoles in broccoli and cabbage
–Isothiocyanates in broccoli and cabbage, as well as mustard and horseradish
–Lycopene in tomatoes and red grapefruit
–S-allycysteine in garlic, onions and chives
–Triterpenoids in licorice root and citrus fruit
(Source: Intelihealth website)