Plant life possesses special chemicals that may have a tremendous impact on our quality of life. They have been given a special classification called phytochemicals. These are chemicals that are responsible for giving a plant its protective coloring, its unique odor and special taste. Vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds are rich sources of these phytochemicals. These chemicals have a tremendous effect on the chemicals in our body. Scientists are now attributing plant chemicals with the power to prevent one in five cases of cancer. Studies are finding that they are powerful in stimulating the immune system against fighting off bacteria and viruses. They can reduce inflammation, block environmental carcinogens, trigger death of damaged cells as well as regulate hormones. As far back as the early 1900s scientists started questioning why people who ate a diet rich in plant food had lower rates of cancer. It was then discovered that certain plants such as broccoli had sulforaphane which seemed to stop cells from becoming cancerous. However, not all of these chemicals have been named or classified. Some of the more commonly known are lycopene in tomatoes, resveratrol in grapes, curcumin in turmeric, beta-carotene in sweet potatoes and the list goes on and on. Supplements have now been made available for many of these chemicals. However, they are not as effective and, in some cases, have even proven to be toxic if taken in large amounts. Phytochemicals are best absorbed if taken in combination with their original food source. Some questions remain to be answered. What quantity is sufficient for maximum health, how long does their protection last, how do they react with each other and to what extent does cooking affect them? Until all of these questions are answered it can’t hurt to sit down and enjoy a colorful plate of mixed fruits and vegetables.