Other Beneficial Phytochemicals

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Antioxidants may be the most important group of ingredients for maintaining long-term health, but they’re not the only one. Trace chemicals in plants, including herbs and spices, are turning out to have helpful effects on many other processes that affect the balance between health and disease. For example, some act like aspirin (originally found in plants) to prevent the body from overreacting to minor damage with an inflammation that can lead to heart disease or cancer; some prevent the body from turning mildly toxic chemicals into more powerful toxins that damage DNA and cause cancer; some inhibit the growth of cells that are already cancerous. Others slow the loss of calcium from our bones, encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in our system, and discourage the growth of disease bacteria.