Phytochemicals serve a wide variety of functions in plants to provide flavor, color but also to protect the plant from insects and microbes. More than 2000 of these chemicals have been identified. It has been known for 30 years that diets rich in fruits and vegetables are protective against some cancers and heart disease and for years vitamins and minerals were given the credit; now we know that more than likely it was the presence of the phytochemicals. Now there is evidence that these compounds may protect against macular degeneration, cataracts, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and hypertension.
Most phytonutrients work together, so it is nearly impossible to put them together in a pill; therefore, it is obviously recommended that foods rather than supplements provide them.
How do phytochemicals work? In general, they:
Act as hormone-inhibiting substances that prevent the initiation of cancer.
Serve as antioxidants that prevent and repair damage to cells due to oxidation.
Block or neutralize enzymes that promote the development of cancer and other diseases.
Decreases plague formation and formation of blood clots.