Preventing Disease with Phytonutrients: Carotenoids
Phytochemicals are found in plants and have protective and/or disease preventive properties. Most act as antioxidants in body, protecting our cells from oxidation, and reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
Phytochemicals with antioxidant activity include: allyl sulfides (onions, leeks, garlic), carotenoids (fruits, carrots), flavonoids (fruits, vegetables), polyphenols (tea, grapes).
In addition to antioxidant activity, some phytochemicals have other actions. Some phytochemicals like proanthocyanidins found in cranberries physically bind to cell walls preventing the adhesion of pathogens.
Some phytochemicals including saponins found in beans and capsaicin in hot peppers interfere with the replication of cell DNA, thereby preventing the replication of cancer cells.
Phytochemicals are important components of functional foods. Functional foods are rich sources of bioactive food components.
They can act as hormone-inhibiting substances that prevent the initiation of cancer.
They serve as antioxidants to prevent and repair damage to cells due to oxidation and block or neutralize enzymes that promote the development of cancer and other diseases.
They limit the absorption of the production of cholesterol and decrease the formation of blood clots.
Typically characterized by yellow to red pigments, found widely in plants and animals.
Lycopene (Red/ Pink)
Protects against prostrate cancer and promotes heart health. Characterized by red or pink colors, lycopene is found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, red peppers, watermelon.
Beta-carotene (Orange/ Green)
Protective properties for the immune system, vision, skin and bone health. Characterized by vibrant orange and green pigments in food. Found in leafy greens spinach, collards, kale, broccoli, apricots, cantaloupe, winter squash, carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin.
Promotes eye health, heart health and protects against cancer. Characterized by green colors, lutein is found in collards, kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, artichokes.