Since time immemorial, plants are used as the source of food and medicine. It can be traced back to the start of humanity. Bringing plant-based food, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, rich in phytochemicals, with beneficial nutrients, opens the door for healthy living. The health benefits are partly attributed to the compounds which possess antioxidants. Several epidemiological observations have shown an opposite relationship between consumption of plant-based foods, rich in phytochemicals, and many diseases including cancer. The majority of the ailments are related to oxidative stress induced by free radicals. Free radicals are extremely unstable with a very short half-life, highly reactive molecule which leads to oxidative damage to macromolecules such as proteins, DNA, and lipids. Free radical induced cellular inflammation appears to be a major contributing factor to cause aging, and degenerative diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hepatic diseases, renal ailments, and brain dysfunction. Free radicals have been caught up in the pathogenesis of several diseases. Providentially, free radical formation is controlled naturally by phytochemicals, through their antioxidant potential which plays a key role in preventing many diseases including cancer by suppressing oxidative stress-induced DNA damage. Keeping these facts in mind, an attempt has been made to highlight the oxidative stress, enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidant, dietary phytochemicals and their role of in disease prevention and cure.
Part of the book: Antioxidants