Phytochemical is a more recent term that came into use instead of term nutraceutical that was first implied by Stephen de Felice who was the director of New York’s Foundation for Innovation in Medicine. However, the term phytonutrient would describe the essence of the element best.
Phytochemicals are the elements that are responsible for the taste (for example bitterness), color (red color of tomatoes, paper) and other features of fruits and vegetables. But their importance for a human body is as significant as for the plants. The consumption of those elements plays a vital role in human health, ability to fight diseases and length of life.
According to the Morton, 1993 studies are showing that as we move away from the diet of our ancestors, we succumb to “modern” diseases. Evidence of this can be seen in societies such as the centenarian tribes that live in remote villages in the Andes Mountains and who still embrace traditional dietary practices. These people have been reported to live extraordinarily long lives that are free of such illnesses as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
Phytochemical in modern world
Since modern people in America are not following the diet as the tribes mentioned before, the question arises of the influence Phytochemical can have in the nutrition of ordinary American. Dragsted, 1993 claims that from different studies, biochemical researchers have identified specific phytochemicals that aid the body in maintaining health and combating a disease. As an overall guideline, health authorities recommend that we consume diets rich in whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables as well as reduce fat and animal-protein consumption.
Meskin, 2006 and many other scientists claim that consumption of food reach in phytochemicals protect against several common cancers, cardiovascular disease, premature aging, problems with breathing, diabetes II, and many another chronic disease. The daily consumption of apple, for example, showed the 46% decline in lung censer incidents, and the general inhabitation of the reproduction of cancer cells by 43%. Other studies showed that the regions where population consumed apples regularly showed lower rates of breathing problems and breathing-related diseases.
Regular consumption of apples also contributed to the reduction of cancer risk in smokers.
The disease-fighting profile of apples provides a multitude of health benefits, including a potential decreased risk of cancer and heart disease. Several recent studies suggest apples may provide a “whole-body” health benefit. (University of Massachusetts Lowell, 2005)
Of phytochemicals’ influence on human body. In general, phytochemicals have so-called ‘phyto power’.
In dietary studies following preventive mechanisms were found:
- Human chemicals and carcinogens detoxification
- Antioxidant activity
- Immune system stimulation
- Antiviral and antibacterial properties
- Reduction of blood pressure
- Maintaining normal DNA Repair
- Cardiovascular disease processes reduction
- Showering tumor growth
Probably one of an essential function of phytochemicals that is underlined by the modern medicine is the ability to act as an antioxidant. Bate carotene, as well as vitamins C and E, are the best-known antioxidants. However, they are not the most powerful ones. First of all, these are only a few of antioxidants, and there are thousands more of them. Second, political category contains flavorings that are known as more powerful antioxidants than those mentioned above.
Guttersen (2001) suggests following: an antioxidant helps prevent or delay the oxidative damage to the body, cells, and tissues which are a result of free radicals. Scientists believe that free radical damage is a crucial stage which contributes to diseases like heart disease, cancer, and premature aging. Free radicals are natural by-products of metabolism and are also formed in the body in response to smoking, air pollution, and excessive exposure to sunlight. One of the most damaging free radicals is the unstable, highly reactive form of oxygen which attacks cells, genes, and tissues in a rapid chain reaction sequence. The antioxidants stabilize the free radical and stop the damaging chain reaction.
In the same study, she further suggests that for achieving this effect it is also essential to use ‘seasonable’ food that it naturally available in the current region. The way includes fruits and vegetables in the ration can be picked up from the Mediterranean region, where originally green food is a part of the diet for many nations.
Vegetables cooked properly and added to the meal, do not lose their capabilities to influence body positively. The research showed that in the cooking traditions of that regions many vegetables are cooked with the olive oil. That way of cooking does not only allow to minimize or cover up the bitter taste of some of them but also, as the study suggests, boost the antioxidant effect of the original component.
Antioxidant ability is far from the only a critical issue that plants are ready to offer, but it remains the most research by far. It is also important to understand that currently, the medicine is not able to suggest one most important phytochemical or determine the full potential of one or another element, however, it is entirely clear that the combination of those factors is not just right, but vital for the human organism, its immune and blood system. (Zimmerman, 2004)
Phytochemicals are the basis of human health and reproduction. Preserving the protection of vital organs, systems and DNA they ensure the ability of human body to function normally and maintain a high level of activity and mental capabilities through the years.
Many studies suggest that the preventive effect of phytochemicals is obvious and any evidence of that can be found. Moreover, in many traditions of a different nation, that preventive effect of plants is originally a part of traditional nutrition of people. The Mediterranean region still demonstrates high dedication to that tradition and, as the result, lower rates of obesity and many other diseases that currently affect American society.
The diet reach in fruits and vegetables can become a basis for long and healthy life. The philosophy of such diet is that it is better to prevent diseases by natural means then to treat those disorders by different medicine afterward. In fact, the implementation of that philosophy on national level (eg. in public schools’ and state-owned institutions cafeterias) and promotion of public awareness about the benefits of such way of nutrition and importance of phytochemicals can lead to the reduction in rates of obesity, blood pressure and breathing problems, incidents of cancer, diabetes II and some other diseases that are commonly widespread.
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