Phytochemicals are natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables. They are substances that don’t fall within any other categories – they are not vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, fats or minerals. Their properties help fight against cancer, regenerate loss organ function and rejuvenate skin.
Each type of fruit or vegetable may contain hundreds of phytochemicals. An orange alone for example, may contain 170 or more different phytochemicals.
Phytochemicals originated to help plants survive in an often hostile environment. When the Earth was young, there was very little free oxygen in the atmosphere. Plants, which take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, eventually increased the oxygen composition. But by doing so, they polluted their own environment. To protect themselves from the highly reactive oxygen, plants developed antioxidant compounds, including phytochemicals. Today, thanks to these antioxidants, plants can survive and thrive in our oxygen-rich environment. Phytochemicals also protect plants against bacteria, fungi, viruses and cell damage.
The same phytochemicals that protect plants also help the humans who eat them. Experts know that phytochemicals have antioxidant properties, meaning that they protect against substances called “free radicals” which can damage healthy cells.
Where are the phytochemicals?
Most of them are located in the parts that people discard like stems, seeds, skins and rinds. Therefore, in most cases it is necessary to pulverize some of these skins and seeds in an attempt to keep the phytochemical benefits. Juicing is a poor attempt to trying to keep the best part of as the pulp ends contains the most nutritional part of the food, which is after thrown away. However, it may not make a difference sometimes even if you add some of this pulp to your juice. The smallest of seeds, like the tiny ones on the skin of a strawberry will not dissolve with a juicer.
How do they help our body’s healing process?
The bottom line is Detoxification. Yes, detox in the blood cells. We are exposed to a great number of xenobiotics (chemical compounds like drugs, pesticides, or carcinogens) during the course of our lifetime, including a variety of pharmaceuticals and food components. However, our bodies are capable of detoxifying them. To accomplish this task, our bodies have evolved complex systems of detoxification enzymes.
These enzyme systems generally function adequately to minimize the potential of damage from xenobiotics. When the detoxification process is impaired the cells become damaged and therefore create diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndromes. Accumulated data suggests an individual’s ability to remove toxins from the body is essential to avoid chronic conditions and diseases.
The detoxification process of a cell is made in two phases:
* Phase I: the enzymes involved here are called ‘activators’. They alter the chemical your body needs to remove, by adding single nitrogen or oxygen molecules. This very small change makes it easier for the next phase to proceed.
* Phase II: enzymes called ‘excretors’ now take over. They bind the altered chemical to a small substance called glutathione. This makes it possible for your body to remove the substance, as it becomes water soluble.
So guess what – Glutathione is one of the thousands of phytochemicals present in the foods we eat. It is actually the god of phytochemicals and this phase II of the detoxification process can only be made when the phytochemical is present. If it’s not, disease starts developing.
Phase II enzyme is critical to fighting cancer and other auto-immune disorders. The epidemic of autoimmune related diseases is due to the lack of phytochemicals. Supplying your body with a high phytochemical diet (even for a few weeks) will cleanse your blood and reverse or keep you away from disease.
The highest contents of Glutathione can be found in Asparagus. So how about planning your next meal with a delicious recipe for Asparagus? :)