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Why Do Fruits and Vegetables Protect Us From Disease?

Why Do Fruits and Vegetables Protect Us From Disease?

It is no secret that fruits and vegetables give us powerful protection against disease; but how? You may or may not have heard the term “phytonutrients.” Phyto comes from the Greek word plant. Phytonutrients are the vitamins and minerals (nutrients) we derive from fruits and vegetables.

In nature, photonutrients protect the plants themselves from bacteria and insects; the plants’ own natural predators. When we consume these plants, these chemicals protect our body as well. The following are the phytonutrients from which we benefit the most:

Allylic Sulfides

These compounds are what gives onions, garlic, and other herbs their strong flavor and pungent odor. In humans these same compounds raise good (HDL) cholesterol, lower triglyceride levels, and protect the heart.


These antioxidants are found in abundance in carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green leafy vegetables, cantaloupe, and tomatoes. They can prevent heart disease and certain types of cancer.


Flavonoids are also antioxidants and can be found in citrus fruit, apples, cranberries, grape juice, endive, onions, kale, and red wine. They are primarily known for preventing heart disease and blocking clots by prohibiting cholesterol from sticking to artery walls.

Indoles and Isothiocyanates

These compounds are found in large quantities in cabbage, mustard greens, cauliflower, and broccoli. They stimulate enzymes known for preventing cancer and blocking estrogen activity in cells.


With the same prevention power as the indoles and isothiocyanates, these chemicals can be found in kidney beans, chick peas, lentils, and soybeans.


These chemicals are unique to flaxseed. Again, these antioxidants can block estrogen activity and stop the formation of certain cancer cells.


This photonutrient, you guessed it, is another cancer preventative. It blocks the action of cancer-causing compounds. Citrus fruits including oranges and grapefruit contain this compound as do cherries.


The chemicals in this group bind with cholesterol and help flush it out of the body. They are also known to stimulate the immune systems and help prevent cancer and heart disease. Saponins are found in nuts, oats, chickpeas, potatoes, soybeans, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

As we have seen, these phytonutrients protect us by flushing toxic chemicals from our bodies and keeping hormones such as estrogen at optimal levels. There is no better substitute for preventing heart disease and certain types of cancer than the nutrients found in plant-based foods.

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