Phytochemicals are substances found in foods of plant origin, biologically active, which are essential nutrients for life at least in the short term, but have positive effects on health. Found naturally in plants (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, herbs and spices).
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Phytochemicals are beginning to take into account in recent years, as they are discovering its health benefits, some of them and the most outstanding are protection against cancer since they act in the detoxification of drugs, toxins, carcinogens and mutagens as blockers or suppressors, neutralize free radicals, inhibit enzymes that activate carcinogens and induce detoxifying enzymes thereof. And cardiovascular protection since they prevent the oxidation of LDL, reduce the synthesis and use of cholesterol and blood pressure and affect coagulation, some other benefits are delayed aging and associated diseases.
They also give color, aroma and flavor to food. Phytochemicals Phytochemicals or phytonutrients are the next generation of natural health supplements. They are helping to erase the line between food and medicine that had been drawn many years ago. Some studies are showing that as we move away from the diet of our ancestors, we succumb to “modern” diseases. You can see evidence of this in societies as groups living in remote villages in the mountains of the Andes, the Caucasus or in the Himalayas and still traditional dietary practices.
It is reported that these people have extraordinary longevity and are virtually free of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis. Researchers have examined the epidemiological reality of modern societies for clues to the connection between diet and disease. Based on these studies, researchers have identified certain biochemical active ingredients that help the body maintain health and fight diseases.
As a general guide, health authorities recommend consuming diets rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as reducing fat and animal protein. Basically, what our ancestors ate in their traditional Mediterranean diet. It has been experimentally proven that supplementation with antioxidants can partially protect the increased oxidative DNA damage induced by chemical or biological agents. This could explain, according to some, the preventive capacity of diets rich in fruits and vegetables, which seems beyond doubt, against cancer development.
According to others, the protective nature of diets rich in fruits and vegetables against cancer, is due to other substances, aside from phytochemicals, that they contain. It has been shown that many of these phytochemicals help the plants to survive, acting as hormones, enzymes, or simply provide color, aroma and flavor. Its basic function is to help the plant to protect against free radicals, insects, parasites, viruses and general damage that may occur during their lifetime. Similarly, it seems that phytochemicals provide some of these protective effects in humans.
These phytochemicals or phytonutrients despite not fall within the classification of essential nutrients for humans, have been isolated and studied and found to have remarkable properties in promoting health and preventing and / or treatment of diseases (eg cancer, heart disease, arthritis, immune derangements, etc. ).. Among these substances are the glucosinolates, which are abundant in cruciferous brassicas such as kale, collard or turnip greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli or brussels sprouts, the limonene from oranges and lemons, the sulfur compounds in onions andgarlic, and soy phytoestrogens.
In the past, the phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables were classified as vitamins: Flavonoids are known as vitamin P, cabbage factors (glucosinolates and indoles) were called vitamin U, and ubiquinone was vitamin Q. In the case of other nutrients, vitamin designation removed because they could not establish specific deficiency symptoms, so they were not considered essential nutrients. However, recent research has allowed scientists phytonutrients grouped into different classes based on similar protective functions as well as the chemical structure and biological activity of individual molecules.
This article summarizes some of the groups of phytonutrients on the most widely investigated to date. Then shall state the main compounds considered until today as phytochemicals, as demonstrated specific actions of each of them. Among others, describe in detail the terpenes (carotenoids and limonoids), phenols ( flavonoids), sulfur and polysaccharides. Terpenes are molecules are very abundant in plants and their classification is determined by the number of isoprene that contain. Found in green foods, soy products and cereals are one of the larger groups of phytonutrients.
They act as antioxidants protecting lipids, blood and other bodily fluids from the attack of free radicals of oxygen species such as singlet oxygen and hydroxyl radicals, hydrogen peroxide and superoxide. Natural Carotenoids are a subclass of terpenes which are pigments that give color to many fruits and vegetables, yellow, orange and red. It has even been found that carotenoids confer brightly colored animals, for example, flamingos and crustaceans owe their color to carotenoids previously obtained through your diet.
Egg yolks are yellow by the presence of carotenoids, which also protects unsaturated fats they contain. Carotenoids are a family of approximately 700 soluble molecules that are only produced by phytoplankton, algae, plants, and a limited number of fungi and bacteria. The carotenoid family includes two different types of molecules. One type, the carotenes, are classified chemically as tetraterpenes. This type of carotenoids can be subdivided in provitamin (alpha, beta and gamma carotene) and non-provitamin (lycopene, phytoene and phytofluene).
The second type of carotenoids, xanthophylls, comprising chemical compounds called xanthophylls or oxycarotenoids are carotenoids and ketocarotenoid alcohols. In this second category are molecules cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, canthaxanthin, capsanthin, equinenona and astaxanthin. Beta carotene can be found in yellow-orange vegetables such as melon, mango, papaya, apricots, carrots, pumpkin, etc. and the dark green, like broccoli and brussels. They provide the best conversion of carotenoids into vitamin A, but it requires a good protein status, thyroid hormones, zinc, vitamin E and vitamin C to facilitate this conversion.
The conversion decreases as the status of vitamin A reached optimum levels. Beta carotene is often deficient in the epithelial cells of the vagina in patients with vaginal candidiasis, therefore supplementation may reduce recurrence. Carotenoid products may contain a synthetic form of beta carotene, which is cheaper but lower quality and activity. In addition, studies such as those of Finnish and Caret, recommend that any formulation consisting of carotenoids should not be based solely on the concentration of beta carotene, but in the balance and activity of a range of carotenoids.
In fact, many studies show that high levels of beta carotene can hinder the absorption and utilization of other important carotenoids. Natural beta carotene is extracted from marine algae salt, which gives a mixture of carotenoids. Another healthy option that will provide a mix of natural carotenoids is palm oil. It is also available natural beta carotene supplements for the production of carrot oil (but this only provides beta carotene). The most common dietary sources are carrots, peaches and spinach.
Lycopene family member of the carotenoids (carotene is a pro-vitamin), is found primarily in tomato products (sauces, purees, etc. ), red pepper, pink grapefruit and watermelon. Lycopene is more potent as an antioxidant and anti mutagenic that alpha-carotene. You do not have pro-vitamin