Can Phytochemicals Help Protect You From Alzheimer’s?
To understand what Phytochemicals are, we must first break down the word into its component parts. Phyto comes from the Greek word, meaning plant, so phytochemicals are plant chemicals, also referred to as plant nutrients or phytonutrients. Phytochemicals protect the brain, particularly from Alzheimer’s disease, have an anti-inflammatory effect, act as antioxidants, assist in detoxifying the body, and slow the aging process.
The exact number of phytochemicals is unknown; they are thought to number in the hundreds, possibly thousands, and are found in fruits and vegetables. Contrary to the food guide pyramid’s old recommendations to eat almost a dozen servings of grains and other starches daily, new guidelines suggest it is more wise to eat several servings daily of fruits and vegetables for good health.
Below are some of the more commonly researched phytochemicals.
Allium – are found in onions and garlic, is thought to help reduce cholesterol and have a protective effect against heart disease.
Carotenoids – are found in carrots, giving them their color. Carotenoids also provide color to egg yolks, wild Alaskan salmon, shellfish, and trout.
Ellegic acid – are found in berries may have an anti-cancer effect and improve brain function.
Flavonoids – are found in apples, broccoli, celery, cherries, cranberries, eggplant, kale, onions, soybean, and tea. High levels of phenolic flavonoids are found in grape juice and red wine. There are over four thousand flavonoids; the major categories include anthocyanins, catechins, flavones, and isoflavones. Research indicates that flavonoids can reduce heart disease, slow tumor growth, prevent blood clots, reduce inflammation and act as antioxidants. Flavonoids in red wine aid in lowering LDL (lousy) cholesterol.
Indoles – are found in the cruciferous family of vegetables such as bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and turnips.
Isoflavones (phytoestrogens) – are a type of flavonoid similar to the female hormone estrogen. They are found primarily in soy products but also in lesser amounts in berries, chickpeas, grains, and seeds. Similar to estrogen, isoflavones can improve bone density, lower cholesterol, and reduce some menopausal symptoms. They are also thought to have a protective effect against hormone-driven cancers, such as breast and prostate.
Limonoids & Limonenes – are found in the sour tasting fruits lemon, lime and grapefruit. They lower blood cholesterol levels, help prevent cancer by increasing the detoxifying activity of liver enzymes, protect the lung and alleviate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and inhibit cancer in human breast cells.
Cayce’s View on Veggies
Perhaps the reason Edgar Cayce recommended eating three above the ground vegetables to one below ground vegetable (reading 3373-1) at a meal was to provide a protective effect against disease by providing several phytochemicals in combination. This is easy to do by having stir fry vegetables in the summer and roasted vegetables in the winter. One of my favorite winter combinations is butternut squash, green zucchini, red bell pepper and garlic. Bon Appetit!
References: (1) The Pericone Promise by Nicholas Perricone, MD; (2) How Phytochemicals Work by Stephanie Watson; (3) Power Foods by Stephanie Beling, MD.