Phyto Power

By Matthew Kadey, RD

Chemical warfare isn’t always a bad thing: Fruits and vegetables use their phytochemicals for protection as they grow, and once inside us, these same compounds have potent antioxidant and anticancer properties, says Michael Seidman, MD, director of wellness at the Henry Ford Health System’s Center for Integrative Medicine in Detroit. Here, four of nature’s most powerful phytochemical warriors and the conditions they can help fight:

Help stave off: Obesity, osteoporosis, stroke, periodontal disease, breast cancer
Sources: White, green, and oolong teas
Supplement with: 300 to 500 mg daily (as green tea extract)
Quick tip: Spiking tea with citrus juice such as lemon stabilizes the catechins, making them easier to absorb.

Helps stave off: Athero-sclerosis; metabolic syndrome; hip fractures; prostate, renal, and ovarian cancers
Sources: Tomatoes, guavas, blood oranges, watermelon, pink grapefruits, prickly pears
Supplement with: 10 to 20 mg daily
Quick tip: Lycopene is more abundant in processed tomato products, including tomato paste, ketchup, pasta sauce, and tomato soup.

Helps stave off: Respiratory tract infections, high cholesterol, colon cancer
Sources: Apples, red onions, tea, capers, cabbage, buckwheat, red grapes
Supplement with: 250 to 500 mg daily
Quick tip: Quercetin is more prevalent in an apple’s skin than its flesh.

Helps stave off: Ulcers; asthma; breast, stomach, and skin cancers
Sources: Broccoli, cauli-flower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy
Supplement with: 250 to 500 mg daily
Quick tip: Young broccoli sprouts contain severaltimes more sulforaphane than their mature brethren.