Phytochemicals 101: reducing free radical exposure

What are Phytochemicals?

The Compounds found in plant based foods (such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains) that have antioxidant or hormonal activity. These antioxidants reduce the chances of certain cancers and chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.

Groups by Food Color and Functions

Green Fruits and Vegetables

-       Contain lutein, beta carotene, and chlorophyll

-       Builds resistance to certain cancers such as colon cancer

-       Helps eye health by protecting it from light and free radical damage

-       Choices include spinach, kale, avocadoes, and broccoli. asparagus, brussel sprouts, mustard greens, collard greens

Red, Purple, and Blue

-       Red and blue fruit contain anthocyanin and function as an antioxidant of free radicals and cytokines, and an anti-inflammatory

-       Contains anthocyanin, betacyanin, and proanthocyanidins

-       Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, apples, cherries, pomegranates, red grapes, beets, red cabbage, black rice

-       Protect cells from aging

-       Purple anthocyanin in black rice can reduce LDL cholesterol and prevent arteries from clogging, acting as an anti-inflammatory

-       The anthocyanine also may reduce breast cancer.


-       Resist carcinogens, protects skin health, and helps with eye health

-       Contains beta-carotene and alpha carotene


-       Fat soluble

-       Most typical: beta carotene, alpha carotene, cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, zeacanthin, astaxanthin

-       Enhances immune system, prevents oxidation of LDL, prevents cancer

-       Found in orange, yellow, or green fruits and vegetables

-       Beta carotene, alpha carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin converts to Vitamin A in the body

-       Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids found in the retina and lens of the eye

-       Zeaxnathin may help slow age-related macular degeneration and cataracts


-       Help with cell signaling

-       Aids in reducing the development of cardiovascular disease

-       May protect aging in brain and development of other chronic illnesses

-       Functions include: anticarcionogenics, anti-inflammatory, antiallerigc, antiviral, and antithrombotic activities

-       Contain Six main classes: flavanols, flavones, flavanones, isoflavonoids, flavanols, anthocyanin

-       In the red, purple, and blue fruits and vegetables; red wine; citrus fruits, soy products; beans; and teas


-       Result in forming gluosinolate hydrolysis products

-       May reduce the risk of developing lung and colorectal cancer

-       May help with metabolism functioning and sex hormone development

-       Contain Isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol

-       Found in cruciferous vegetables other green produce


Reducing Free Radical Exposure and Ingestion

Free radicals and natural oxidation damages the body by injuring the cell and changing the DNA structure of the cell. This occurs through natural cell functioning and external toxins. Ways to reduce free radicals and cellular oxidation include:

-       Avoiding tobacco usage, cigarette smoking, and exposure

-       Not overly tanning in sunlight and avoiding tanning beds

-       Reducing exposure to X-Rays

-       Wearing a protective mask around chemicals other air pollutants

-       Reducing or avoiding alcohol consumption

-       Reducing the use of charcoal when grilling

Although it may be difficult to avoid much of these causers of free radicals, at least being aware of what may cause oxidative stress can potentially improve the conscious importance of why phytochemicals are very important in every day eating habits.