Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant chemicals that provide plants with color, smell and flavor. Once we eat those phytochemicals, research shows they can influence the chemical processes inside our bodies in many different beneficial ways.
A study by Waladkhani and Clemens titled “Effect of dietary phytochemicals on cancer development” revealed that consuming vegetables, fruits and whole grains containing a wide variety of phytochemicals has the potential to slow or even prevent cancer. Although the exact mechanism of action is not fully understood the study reveals that the phytochemicals inhibit carcinogenesis “by inhibiting phase I enzymes, and inducton of phase II enzymes, scavenge DNA reactive agents, suppress the abnormal proliferation of early, preneoplastic lesions, and inhibit certain properties of the cancer cell.
Full study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9852292.
Phytochemicals are found in minimally processed plat foods and the more you eat the better! One simple way to increase your phytochemical intake is through spices. Spices are also a great way to add flavour to your food, without adding fat, salt or sugar.
Dietician Julie Landford, author of Cancer Dietician, provides some tips to increase the phytochemicals in your diet:
- sprinkle 1/4 teasopoon of oregano leaves instead of 1/4 teaspoon of salt (this will save you 575mg of sodium and add as many antioxidants as 1.5 cups of spinach).
- use 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon in place of 1 tablespoon brown sugar (this will save 12g of sugar, 45 calories and add antioxidans comparable to 1/4 cup of raspberries).
- beat 1/8 teaspoon of thyme into 2 eggs before scrambling
- add oregano and tomato to a grilled cheese sandwich (broil it open-face to save 100 calories by not pan frying it in butter)
- shake thyme, rosemary and oregano on baked chicken or roasted vegetables