Phytochemicals: guardians of our health

J Am Diet Assoc. 1997 Oct;97(10 Suppl 2):S199-204. doi: 10.1016/s0002-8223(97)00765-7.


Consuming a diet rich in plant foods will provide a milieu of phytochemicals, nonnutritive substances in plants that possess health-protective benefits. Nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables contain an abundance of phenolic compounds, terpenoids, pigments, and other natural antioxidants that have been associated with protection from and/or treatment of chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension as well as other medical conditions. The foods and herbs with the highest anticancer activity include garlic, soybeans, cabbage, ginger, licorice, and the umbelliferous vegetables. Citrus, in addition to providing an ample supply of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, and pectin, contains a host of active phytochemicals. The phytochemicals in grains reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Citrus
  • Edible Grain
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Flavonoids / administration & dosage
  • Flax
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Magnoliopsida
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Pigments, Biological / administration & dosage
  • Soybean Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Vegetables*


  • Flavonoids
  • Pigments, Biological
  • Soybean Proteins