Phytochemicals in Nutrition and Health
Pp. 201-243 (43)
Nicole A. Eggers and Esperanza J. Carcache de Blanco
Some phytochemicals, or chemical compounds produced by or present in
plants, may be nutritious for human consumption. Phytochemicals are not essential
nutrients for humans, but they may contribute to preventing or treating diseases such as
cancer, diabetes, diseases of the eye, and cardiovascular disease. In this chapter, some
of the most important phytochemicals for human health and nutrition are detailed, along
with their mechanisms of action, chemical structures, and specific health benefits. These
health-promoting phytochemicals are present in familiar plant sources of fruits,
vegetables, and legumes. The carotenoids in tomatoes, for example, are studied for
anticancer effects and reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. The proanthocyanidins in
cranberries can prevent or treat urinary tract infections. The isoflavonoids in soybeans
mimic hormones, which contribute to the possible effectiveness in some breast cancers.
The sulfur-containing phytochemicals in broccoli and Brussels sprouts have potential
anticancer effects. A few sulfur-containing compounds in garlic are very good
antibacterial agents. The study of chemical compounds present in common edible
plants, allows students to correlate nutrition to disease prevention or treatment by
functional foods; perhaps this chapter even facilitates thinking about foods as drugs.
Aglycones, antioxidants, cancer, cardiovascular disease, carotenoids,
chemical structures, chemopreventative agents, diabetes, eye diseases, flavonoids,
glycosides, inflammation, natural colorants, obesity, organosulfur compounds,
phytochemical index, phytochemicals, phytoestrogens, steroids, terpenoids.
College of Pharmacy, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.