Phytochemicals are the group of plant-derived compounds which can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and plant-based beverage such as wine and tea. Based on their chemical structure, phytochemicals can be divided into 3 general groups. They are phenolic acid, flavonoid, and stilbenes/lignans, where flavonoid is the most diverse group among them. These phytochemicals compound can be classified again into anthocyanins, flavones, flavanones, isoflavones, and flavonols. The health benefits of phytochemicals come from the various mechanism of action. They provide health benefits as:
- biochemical reactions substrate
- cofactors and inhibitors for enzymatic reactions
- absorbents that eliminate unnecessary constituents in the intestine
- scavengers of toxic chemicals
- essential compounds that enhance the absorption of nutrients
- selective growth factor for flora normal (beneficial bacteria) in the gastrointestinal
- inhibitors for deleterious intestinal bacteria
From all of those mechanisms, research supporting the health benefits of phytochemicals that can be described as follow:
1. Phytochemicals against cancers.
The health benefits of photochemical to against cancers come from the isothiocyanates (sulforaphane) compound. This compound acts as an anti-cancer agent with its mechanism which can neutralize the free radicals that can cause cancer. You can get this compound from broccoli, kale, or horseradish.
2. Phytochemicals prevent the heart disease.
Preventing the heart disease is one of the great health benefits of phytochemicals through cyanidin compound. It helps to decrease the platelet aggregation which can plug up the coronary arteries of the heart. It this plaque can be prevented, the blood can flow smoothly to supply the oxygen to the heart.
The berries fruit is rich in this compound. In addition, the others phytochemicals including phytosterols, phenolic acid, lignans, and carotenoid that are present in whole-grain have a cardioprotective effect.
3. Phytochemicals prevent the diabetes Mellitus.
Many researchers suggest that phytochemicals may directly decrease the risk of diabetes Mellitus through several mechanisms, such as reducing the inflammation, improving the sensitivity of the insulin, and decreasing the risk factor of diabetes.
The polyphenols compound in tea and cocoa contribute to increasing the insulin sensitivity and lower the diabetes risk. A study in Europe has shown that drink more than 4 cups of tea per day can lower the risk of diabetes up to 16% compared with non-tea drinkers.
4. Phytochemicals can stabilize the blood pressure.
The phytochemical compounds called isoflavones including genistein dan daidzein have health benefits for stabilizing the blood pressure. They have vessel dilatation effect to reduce the blood pressure. You can these health benefits of phytochemicals from soy beans, soy milk, and tofu.
5. Phytochemicals reduce the inflammation.
Proanthocyanidins and flavan-3-ols as phytochemical compound play the role in inhibition of proinflammatory responses which can reduce the inflammation. These health benefits of phytochemical can be found in red wine, grape Juice, grape extracts, and cocoa.
6. Phytochemicals act as antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-parasitic infection.
The flavonoid effect exhibits the inhibitory mechanism against multiple viruses, bacteria, and parasitic infection. This brings the health benefits of phytochemical against the infection.
7. Phytochemicals help to treat the psychotic disorder.
The health benefits of phytochemicals to treat psychotic disorder come from its methanolic extraction. This compound releases the substance that reduces the transmitter in psychotic condition.
8. Phytochemicals effective to treat the gastric ulcer.
The polyphenolic compound has been proven to treat the gastric ulcer. This phytochemical compound acts as the gastroprotective agent that can protect the gastric wall from any lesion or ulcer.
9. Phytochemicals improve the vision.
Phytochemicals can improve the vision because of the anthocyanins and beta-carotene compound which can be converted into vitamin A. As we know, vitamin A can improve the vision and maintain the visual acuity.
10. Phytochemicals act as an antioxidant.
The health benefits of phytochemicals as an antioxidant come from carotenoid compounds such as lycopene and beta-carotenes which can neutralize free radicals that can cause cell damage. You can get these phytochemicals compound from carrots, tomatoes, and various types of fruits and vegetables.
11. Phytochemicals have a neuroprotective effect.
The health benefits of phytochemicals as a neuroprotective agent can be proven by its mechanism to protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson.
Many researchers have suggested that phytochemicals such as capsaicin (found in red pepper), resveratrol (found in grapes, wine, peanuts), and curcumin (found in turmeric) may have the neuroprotective effects. They improve the cerebral blood flow which is important for brain function and decreases in Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease.
12. Phytochemicals lowering the LDL cholesterol level.
Garlic, onions, leeks, olives, and scallions contain phytochemicals compound called sulfides and thiols. All of these compounds bring the health benefits of phytochemicals in decreasing the LDL cholesterol level.
13. Phytochemicals stimulate the immune system.
The flavonoid compound as phytochemical can stimulate the immune system through its mechanism against the infection agent. It makes the antibody in an alert condition.
14. Phytochemicals improve the cognitive function of the brain.
The major phytochemicals compound, flavonoids, have the health benefits to improve the cognitive function of the brain by increasing the connections among neurons and improving blood flow to the brain. The consumption of flavonoid-rich foods such as cocoa and berries fruit may bring the health benefits of phytochemicals in the aging brain.
15. Phytochemicals help to face the menopause phase.
Phytoestrogens as one of the phytochemicals compound have estrogen-like activities which help to face the menopause syndrome such as imbalance hormone, hot flashes, and mood changing. These health benefits of phytochemicals can be found in soy and whole grains that may help prevent cognitive decline which can occur following menopause in addition.
15 proven health benefits of phytochemical have been explained above. Therefore, the long-term effects of consuming large amounts of phytochemicals as supplements are not known. It is recommended to consume the phytochemicals from the natural diet such as fruits, vegetables, tea, whole grains, and other plant foods in 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. There are no guidelines for coffee, tea, or cocoa consumption, but consumption of them may offer additional health benefits.