Carotenoids. Isoflavones. Capsaicins. You may have heard these words in radio advertisements for the latest supplement or seen them in last week's newspaper. But what are they? All of them fall into the category of substances called phyto-chemicals or phytonutrients. A phytochemical is, literally, any chemical found in a plant (phyto is the Greek word for plant). Armed with the knowledge that people whose diets are rich in foods of plant origin are at lower risk for many serious diseases, nutritional scientists have begun to try to isolate the actual chemicals in foods that may be responsible for promoting health and preventing disease. Nutritionists have adopted the term "phytochemical" or "phytonutrient" to refer to any one of a growing list of substances they have isolated that appear to prevent disease in laboratory animals.
The phytochemicals identified so far are known to have various roles in the plants from which they originate, including capturing the energy from sunlight and conferring resistance to infection by fungi, bacteria, and viruses. How they function in our bodies, and how they may be
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