Phytochemicals are a wide range of compounds produced by fruits, beans, grains, vegetables, and other plants. Phytochemicals include common vitamins such as folic acid, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, but also less well known nutrients such as lycopene, flavonoids, phytoestrogens and polyphenol. These non-essential but beneficial natural chemicals can help reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many types of cancer.
Good sources of phytochemicals include broccoli, garlic, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. Lycopene can be found in tomatoes, bioflavonoids in citrus fruits and polyphenol is contained in tea.
There are no recommended daily allowances for phytochemicals in the UK, US or Europe. However, eating five portions of fruit and vegetables each day should give you a good mix of these beneficial nutrients.
Phytochemicals differ from other nutrients such as calcium or iron in the sense that, they are not a necessary for normal metabolism and body functions. An absence or deficiency of phytochemicals will not result in a disease or the development of an undesirable condition.
However, it's worth remembering that phytochemicals can help prevent, or at the least reduce the risk, of contracting a whole host of illnesses. It may be only a relatively small benefit but as one supermarket keeps reminding us, Every Little Helps.
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