Mom's favorite pearl of wisdom was always - "Make sure you eat all your vegetables!" and mom was right. Throughout the ages, people have found that consuming certain plants, or parts of plants, relives aches and pains. Some people believe that vitamins, minerals, and fiber are the only healthy thing we get from plants, but this is not true. Plants are an essential part of our diet because they contain chemicals, known as phytochemicals that ensure a healthy diet, prevent heart attacks and chronic diseases like cancer, and improve brain function. Phytochemicals give plants their color, flavor, smell, and texture, and they are contained within a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, legumes, nuts and spices (American Dietetic Association 1999; Homsey 1999).
Although phytochemicals are not yet classified as nutrients, substances necessary for sustaining life, they have been identified as containing properties for aiding in disease prevention (Homsey 1999). Phytochemicals are associated with the prevention and/or treatment of at least four of the leading causes of death in the United States - cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension (American Dietetic Association 1999; Homsey 1999; Messina 1997).
They are involved in many processes including ones that help prevent cell damage, prevent cancer cell replication, and decrease cholesterol levels (American Dietetic Association 1999; Homsey 1999; Zimmerman 2000). With health-care costs being a major issue today, it would be cost effective to continue the research needed to help promote the awareness and consumption of phytochemicals as a prevention strategy for the public (American Dietetic Association 1999).
Individual phytochemicals are being evaluated for their safety and effectiveness in regard to disease prevention. Although most studies support positive outcomes, there are a few studies involving animals that show possible detrimental effects. These studies involve animals and specific extracted phytochemicals in high dosages (American Dietetic Association...