The Health Potential of Fruits and Vegetables Phytochemicals: Notable Examples

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016 May 18;56(7):1097-107. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2012.755149.


Fruit and vegetables are essential components of a healthy diet. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an intake of five to eight portions (400-600 g) daily of fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, poor cognitive performance, and other diet-related diseases, as well as for the prevention of micronutrient deficiencies. Much of their potential for disease prevention is thought to be provided by phytochemicals, among which the preventive activity of antioxidants is most well documented. Since numerous meta-studies published indicate variable and often contradictory results about the impact of isolated phytochemicals on health, their consumption as supplements must be carried out with care, because doses may exceed the recommended nutritional intake. Nonetheless, there is a general consensus that whole fruit and vegetable intake is more important in providing health benefits than that of only one of their constituent, because of additive and synergistic effects. This review describes the most recent literature regarding the health benefits of some selected fruits and vegetables. Importantly, since some phytochemicals regulate the same genes and pathways targeted by drugs, diets rich in fruits and vegetables in combination with medical therapies are being considered as novel approaches to treatment. Therefore, phytochemicals in fruits and vegetable might be a promising tool for the prevention and/or amelioration of a wide range of diseases.

Keywords: Broccoli; cocoa; dandelion; garlic; grapes; olives.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants
  • Brassica / chemistry
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Garlic / chemistry
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Micronutrients / administration & dosage
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Olea
  • Phytochemicals* / administration & dosage
  • Phytochemicals* / analysis
  • Seeds / chemistry
  • Taraxacum / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors
  • Vegetables / chemistry*
  • Vitis / chemistry
  • World Health Organization


  • Antioxidants
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Calcoco1 protein, mouse
  • Micronutrients
  • Phytochemicals
  • Transcription Factors