I have heard the word “phytochemical” a lot lately in regards to healthy eating. What is a phytochemical and how can I increase my intake?

The term “phytochemical” can refer to a wide variety of compounds that are produced by plants. “Phyto” means plant, so phytochemicals are plant chemicals. Specific names for phytochemicals include flavonoids, isoflavones, catechins, anthocyanidins, carotenoids, allyl sulfides and polyphenols.

Phytochemicals are promoted for the prevention and treatment of many health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer. Phytochemicals must be obtained from plant foods, not supplements, to help with disease prevention. Focusing on increasing intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans will assist you in achieving an increased intake of phytochemicals.

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