Phytochemicals are complex natural biochemicals found in plants, notably in fruits and vegetables. Phytochemicals of nutraceuticals importance are bioactive constituents that sustain or promote health and occur at the intersection of food and pharmaceutical industries.
Phytochemicals are not classified as vitamins with official RDA values, but they can contribute greatly to health and well-being. We are adapted to a world that contains phytochemicals in our diet. The macula of the eye is adapted to concentrate the yellow caroteniods lutein and zeaxanthin to protect against harmful blue light.
Phytochemicals can be mainly categorized as terpenoids, phenolics, alkaloids, phytoestrogens, carotenoids, limonoids, phytosterols, glucosinolates, flavonoids, isoflavonoids, anthocyanidins and fiber.
A beneficial role for phytochemicals has already been established against various diseases using in vitro and cell culture systems, various disease states in animals and epidemiology of humans. Published reports show the phytochemicals to be anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antioxidants, antibacterial, antifungal, antispasmodic, chemopreventive, hepato-protective, hypolipidemic, neuroprotective, hypotensive, antiaging etc.
A number of reports have also been published showing the efficacy of phytochemicals for additional diseases such as cancers, coronary heart disease, diabetes, viral and parasitic infections, psychotic diseases, spasmodic conditions, ulcers, etc. Some of the phytochemicals are known to be excellent immuno modulators, analgesic, CNS stimulant and carminative. Some of the phytochemicals can reverse the DNA damage, reduce the LDL cholesterol levels and protect skin from UV radiations. Some can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, some can scavenge free radicals.
Most of the phytochemicals are sourced from agro-products such as whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, herbs spices and other plantation crops. The phytochemicals, either alone and/or in combination, have shown to have tremendous therapeutic potential in curing various ailments stated above.