What are phytochemicals and why do I care?

A phytochemical is a biologically active compound found in plants.

Photo of whole pomegranate and inside of anoth

Phytochemicals are a plant’s immune system, designed by nature to fight off attackers.  Some phytochemicals are potent and toxic (hence their ability to ward off deadly pathogens). There are many phytochemicals, however, that are beneficial to both plants and humans, referred to as phytonutrients.

Individual names of some phytonutrients will be familiar to you–carotenoids, polyphenols, resveratrol.  Phytochemicals that are toxic to humans include nicotine and cocaine.

Food Healing is a system developed by Jeff Primak for accessing more of the phytochemicals in food by using a powerful blender that allows us to use parts of foods we normally don’t ingest. You can find out more about this at www.food-healing.com.

If you decide to eat parts of a plant not normally consumed, be sure to research any possible harmful compounds that may be present in those parts.  The avocado pit can be pulverized in a 3 HP quality blender and is considered generally safe for consumption.  There is a small amount of fungicidal toxin present in the pit, but it is so small that you would have to eat a large quantity of avocado pits to experience any negative effects. The pit is otherwise celebrated for the storehouse of nutrients it contains and many health gurus advise making the most of it.

Livescience.com reports that the cyanide released during the digestive process from chewed or pulverized apple seeds is small but if you ate the seeds of 18 apples all at once, you would probably die.

It is always considered best to get your plant nutrients by eating foods, rather than by supplementation, so eating all the edible parts of a plant seems like a good idea (“edible” meaning that it’s good for you and not poisonous), if caution reigns.