The word "phyto" means "plant". Phytonutrients are
nutrients derived from plant material that have been
shown to be necessary for sustaining human life.
Phytochemicals, that are part of a plant’s immune
system, have been identified as containing properties
for aiding in disease prevention. They are associated
with the prevention and/or treatment of at least four of
the leading causes of death in Western countries -
cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and
hypertension. They are involved in many processes
including ones that help prevent cell damage, prevent
cancer cell replication, and decrease cholesterol
One of the most important groups of phytochemicals are phytosterols or phytohormones. These are plant based sterols that act as precursors to human sterols. One of the most important human sterols is Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). This hormone is produced in our adrenal glands and serves a variety of functions. It is often called the 'mother' hormone as it has the ability to convert itself into other hormones such as oestrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and corticosterone, on demand. Thus it is a precursor to all other hormones and active metabolites. Precursors are substances the body uses to produce other substances.
Scientific research reveals that adequate DHEA in the body can slow the aging process, and prevent, improve, and even often reverse conditions such as cancer, heart disease, memory loss, obesity, and osteoporosis. DHEA is the precursor of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. This means our body makes cortisol and adrenaline from DHEA. When our body makes these hormones, DHEA levels decline. With our stressful lives it is no wonder that most people have deficient levels of DHEA and the medical conditions, and degenerative diseases listed above.
The common classes of phytonutrients are:
• Carotenoids: The human body uses carotenoids to produce vitamin A, provide antioxidant protection and enhance immune system function. Beta-carotene from carrots, spinach and a few other fruits and vegetables are the most recognized of the phytonutrient carotenoids.
• Flavonoids are also natural pigments producing the yellows, reds and blues of flowers. They are not an essential phytonutrient in that flavonoids are synthesized in the body from amino acid phenylalanine. Flavonoids have been described as "nature's biological response modifiers" because of their ability to modify the body’s reaction to allergens, viruses and carcinogens. The healthful effects of fruit, vegetables, tea and even red wine have been attributed to flavonoid compounds rather than to known essential nutrients.
• Inositol Phosphates are a group of phytonutrient organic compounds occurring naturally in the environment. They are important in that they comprise most of the phosphorus in grain seeds. Inositol phosphates are also abundant in soils and water bodies. They do have a crucial role in cellulalar signaling. We covered phosphorus in the discussion on minerals and learned that it is important in maintaining pH balance and having a strong impact on nerve, muscle and kidney function.
• Lignans are plant hormones, specifically Phytoestrogens. Flax seed, sesame seed, sunflower seed and multi-grain bread are four of the highest content sources of phytonutrient lignans. A positive association between high levels of lignans in the body with reduced risks of prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease have been reported in some randomized controlled studies.
On the other hand, some studies showed very little correlation between intake of lignans and cancer prevention, especially breast cancer. The key is in the source of the lignan. For example, whole flax seeds showed significant positive results but flaxseed oil did not. One other consideration is that whole seeds may sometimes pass through the system without getting fully digested while ground seeds are more easily absorbed. So if using whole flax seeds, chew your food throughly.
• Isothiocyanates and Indoles are found in broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts; commonly referred to as the cruciferous vegetables. Epidemiological studies conducted as far back as the eighties showed that these two phytonutrient chemicals have anti-cancer properties.
• Phenols and Cyclic Compounds are acquired from olives and extra virgin olive oil. These phytonutrient wonders exhibit anti-microbial activity against gram-positive bacteria. "Gram-positive" refers to a type of bacteria that can be stained dark blue or violet for examination under a microscope. It includes some nasty critters like bacillus, listeria, streptococcus, staphylococcus and clostridium.
Flexiflax from Camdeboo Health Products capsules consist of a minimum of 500mg powder from Flax seed sprouts high in concentrations of Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids as well as lignans, sterols/sterolins, digestive enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Compleat Adult capsules consist of a minimum of 270mg pure flax seed sprouts and a minimum of 270g plant sprout powder derived from barley, soya, lupin, fenugreek and sunflower sprouts.