International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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Congress Logo 33rd World Vegetarian Congress
Chiang Mai, Thailand, January 4 - 10, 1999
'Vegetarianism is the Way'
an unforgettable visual, cultural and gastronomic experience

Phytochemicals and Wellness

A talk given by Prof. Floyd W. Dunn

Everyone desires good health and a feeling of well-being; no one wants to be "sick." Yet, sometimes poor eating habits allow our bodies to become sick in ways that could be prevented. Proper nutrition allows our body to be "well" and helps us avoid sickness and disease. We have only one body, so we need to protect it throughout a lifetime.

Among the conservative classes of diet, now there is growing recognition that wellness requires another class of dietary components called "phytochemicals." found in plants. Though they are not considered essential "nutrients", but they provide important protection against toxins, cancer and other common disorders of the body.

Plant products: fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, herbs and nuts satisfy hunger and supply necessary nutrients, fiber and protective agents; and, at the same time, allow for an easily accessible low-calorie diet. They impart unique flavors and aromas, and many can (and should) be eaten raw without special preparation. Gentle cooking (steaming or stir-frying) allows for preservation of beneficial components. A plant-based diet can be very simple to prepare and requires little clean-up in the kitchen.

Society who consumes a diet that is high in calories, low in fiber, low in vitamins and minerals, and deficient in phytochemicals. Obesity has become a major health problem. These deleterious, health-limiting dietary characteristics could be corrected with a simple, inexpensive plant-based diet.

"Phytochemical" refers to a very large group of plant components which have special benefits for promoting and maintaining good health. A few examples are:-

Sulforaphane, found in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) can boost the synthesis of enzymes which detoxify carcinogens. These vegetables also contain such protective substances as aromatic isothiocyanates, glucosinolates, indoles, phenols, and dithioethiones.

Carotenes in yellow fruits and vegetables, lycopenes in tomatoes, allicin in garlic and onion, curcumin in tumeric, phytoestrogens in soy beans, gingerol in ginger, quercitin and limonene in citrus fruits---these are just a few more examples of phytochemicals that may protect against allergies, heart disorders, arthritis and other degenerative diseases.

It is neither necessary nor desirable to wait for definitive evidence of the individual properties of each phytochemical. By eating generous amounts of a variety of fruits and vegetables we can obtain the protections needed for optimal health. Becoming more vegetarian is important for reasons greater than just "avoiding meat" and refraining from animal products. Plant materials, being imitated to animal materials might be deficient in phytochemicals even though entirely of plant origin.

A wholesome diet will include several servings each day of fruits and vegetables, with a variety of colors: red, yellow, orange, purple, green. Such common foods as brocolli, carrots, soy beans and soy products, garlic, onions, cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage, eggplant, peppers, corn, whole grains, citrus fruits, pineapple, mangos, apples and bananas are examples to look for on a regular basis. Such a diet, along with a health-promoting life-style, offers the prospect of good health, protection against toxins and degenerative diseases, and can add years to one's life span.

Prof. Floyd W. Dunn has been a visiting professor in Thailand in 1958 up to now. He is a biochemistry professor and his research interest includes synthesis of unusual amino cids and peptides, cancer and cancer prevention.