Spyridon A. Petropoulos, Isabel C.F.R. Ferreira, Lillian Barros
Vegetables play a crucial role in the human diet, being relevant contributors to the intake of micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals) and dietary fiber and prebiotics, as well as occasionally of digestible carbohydrates and proteins (e.g., tubers and pulses). Furthermore, beyond their nutrient composition, vegetables contain a range of non-essential bioactive compounds (i.e., phytochemicals), among which carotenoids and polyphenols, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, stilbenes, lignans or tannins, are prominent, with others such as glucosinolates (in Brassicaceae), cysteine sulfoxides (in Allium species) or betalains (in beets) having more limited distribution.
Phytochemicals have attracted much attention in recent times as they may provide additional health benefits to the consumption of vegetables and other plant foodstuffs. The dietary intake of these compounds has been related with the prevention of some chronic and degenerative diseases that constitute major causes of death and incapacity in developed countries, such as cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes, some types of cancers or neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Nowadays it is considered that phytochemicals contribute, at least in part, for the protective effects of fruit and vegetable-rich diets, so that the study of their role in human nutrition has become a central issue in food research. Read out the full version here.