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Phytochemicals
Plants contain hundreds of other chemicals that are useful to humans in addition to vitamins and minerals. These substances are grouped under the name phytochemicals (phyto=plant, chemical= chemical). The functions of some phytochemicals have been identified, but there are probably hundreds, or even thousands, that we have not yet discovered or do not understand their use to humans.

 


The plants we eat today are survivors of 3.5 billion years of competition. In the "survival of the fittest", the successful plants have developed a wide array of defenses against bacteria, fungi, wounds, insects and foraging animals. Humans have also evolved to benefit from some of these substances; these are the phytochemicals.

Our ancestors also learned to avoid plants that are poisonous to humans. Substances in edible plants that are harmless or beneficial in small quantities can be toxic in large amounts, so you should never eat huge amounts of any one plant, even if it contains beneficial substances. When you hear that a new phytochemical has been identified, don't rush out and eat huge amounts of that fruit or vegetable, or buy a pill that contains the new substance. Just continue to eat a wide variety of the fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and seeds and you'll benefit from ALL of the phytochemicals.
More on phytochemicals

July 29th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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