In addition to vitamins, minerals and fiber, plants contain phytochemicals, which protect them from the ravages of sunlight, wind and other damages. (Phyto comes from the Greek word for plant). Although phytochemicals have no known nutritional value, some appear to have disease-fighting properties.
Phytochemicals have been a hot subject of scientific research in recent years. Garlic, soybeans, licorice root, broccoli, carrots and tomatoes are just a few of the many foods that scientists are evaluating. They want to learn if there is any connection between phytochemicals and the prevention and treatment of cancer and other diseases.
Some of the phytochemicals that may be linked to disease prevention include:
- Capsaicin found in peppers
- Coumarins in citrus fruit and tomatoes
- Flavonoids, also in citrus fruit and tomatoes, as well as berries, peppers and carrots
- Indoles in broccoli and cabbage
- Isothiocyanates in broccoli and cabbage, as well as mustard and horseradish
- Lycopene in tomatoes and red grapefruit
- S-allycysteine in garlic, onions and chives
- Triterpenoids in licorice root and citrus fruit