What Are Phytochemicals?

And Why Do They Improve Your Health and Fitness Performance?

By Habib Wicks, PEERtrainer Co-founder
I just got a helpful email from a member of the PEERtrainer community. I have just started training for a marathon and had asked a question in the community about how to be less sore. This person has also trained for a marathon in the past and suggested that I try Cherries and Cherry Juice.

I checked out the link she sent me, and then started poking around the site where they explained that cherries have some great anti-inflammation properties. I then came to a link to a clinical study where they went into detail about the health properties of fruits and vegetables. At the beginning of the article, there was a helpful summary of one of the most important compounds in fruits and vegetables- Phytochemicals. Here is their description of why they are so important:

"Phytochemicals—the bioactive nonnutrient plant compounds in fruit, vegetables, grains, and other plant foods—have been linked to reductions in the risk of major chronic diseases. It is estimated that more than 5000 phytochemicals have been identified, but a large percentage still remain unknown  and need to be identified before their health benefits are fully understood. However, more and more convincing evidence suggests that the benefits of phytochemicals in fruit and vegetables may be even greater than is currently understood because oxidative stress induced by free radicals is involved in the etiology of a wide range of chronic diseases"

What is interesting about this series of pages I clicked through was how fruits and vegetables are linked not only to weight loss and health, but also athletic performance. It is just interesting how all this stuff is connected. When you start on the path of eating better to lose weight, you have the energy to exercise more and be active. And the fuel for doing both of those activities is virtually the same.

So I will definitely be eating more cherries and keeping my eye out for cherry juice!

Here are some more highlights from that study on Phytochemicals and the impact on health:

"Studies to date have demonstrated that phytochemicals in common fruit and vegetables can have complementary and overlapping mechanisms of action, including modulation of detoxification enzymes, scavenging of oxidative agents, stimulation of the immune system, regulation of gene expression in cell proliferation and apoptosis, hormone metabolism, and antibacterial and antiviral effects"

"phytochemicals have been shown to have roles in the reduction of platelet aggregation, modulation of cholesterol synthesis and absorption, and reduction of blood pressure.. inflammation is a critical factor in cardiovascular disease. Inflammation not only promotes initiation and progression of atherosclerosis but also causes acute thrombotic complications of atherosclerosis. Therefore, the antiinflammatory activity of phytochemicals may play an important role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease."

PEERtrainer Community Discussion about how Phytochemicals help muscle soreness
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