Frequently asked questions
What are phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals are small biomolecules (secondary metabolites) produced by plants for their own different purposes, such as protection, antioxidant, and colour. Foods containing whole plants contain lots of different phytochemicals – there are tens of thousands of different ones existing – and many of them can be absorbed into the body. Some vitamins are considered phytochemicals, but they also include flavonoids, anthocyanidins, phenolic acids, lignans, phytosterols, and many more.
Why should phytochemicals be measured from food?
The amount of phytochemicals tells two main things about a food product. It tells how rich the food is in potentially beneficial bioactive components, which are otherwise unreported by any traditional means. It also shows how much whole plants were used in the foods, since most refinement techniques used in food processing will reduce the amount of phytochemicals as well as other beneficial components, such as dietary fibre. Measuring the phytochemicals is an effective way to show a food product has more health potential and high-quality ingredients.
What do I get with metabolomics?
Metabolomics is the wide-scale analysis of small biomolecules from any biological sample. The term is properly used for nontargeted metabolomics, where instead of measuring a set of known compounds, we make a more comprehensive effort to analyse every possible compound to see what’s relevant and interesting. Typically metabolomics is performed with modern analytical instruments, including mass spectrometry and NMR.