Phyto What? How the Chemicals in Plants Keep Us Healthy

Phytochemical is a fancy word for the constituents found in plant life, and usually specifically to plants we use as food or medicine. These constituents play a vital role in our health. Studies are constantly rolling out with how this or that constituent affects various systems in our body.

The trend to use food as vitamin tablets has been going on for quite a while. If you go to a vitamin store, you will find several brands which do just that. Every vitamin in these tablets comes from some food or herb source.

That’s a good idea if you are on the go and don’t have the time, energy or place to prepare a home cooked meal with lots of fruits and vegetables. However, it’s really not ideal. Getting your nutrients from your food adds benefits of their own, including an increase in fiber and fluid intake.

Vitamins are not the only supplements people use, although the FDA regulates them as food. Herbal remedies also rely on phytochemicals. In this instance, unless you’ve been taught how to safely prepare a supplement, it really is best to use the already packaged variety. There are supplements that you can overdose on, and that could have some serious health risks.

Your best bet for understanding how to use the reams of information available on this topic is to speak to experts yourself. Your doctor and pharmacist are very important in this process. They will help you avoid side effects and drug/herb interactions.

A nutritionist is also a good idea. There may be ways you can work healthy foods into your life without having to work really hard at it. Sometimes, the frozen food aisle can be your friend, as long as you have guidance to avoid the stuff that adds fat, sodium and calories.

For supplements, talk to someone trained in their usage. A Master Herbalist or higher in herbal education is best, but many stores are now training their employees. If yours doesn’t, check other stores in your area to find one that does. You can take the information you gather from these resources to your doctor so that you can both make an informed decision on the topic.

Phytochemical is an unknown word to many people, but it isn’t complicated. In fact, Dr. Mom has used the simple understanding of it for centuries: “Eat your fruits and vegetables!”

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