Phytochemicals are secondary plant metabolites that have human health benefits but are not considered essential nutrients. Examples of essential nutrients are proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Therefore phytochemicals are often referred to as "nonnutritive" compounds thought to be produced by plants as means of protection against such dangers as harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, pathogens, and herbivorous predators. Phytochemicals possess a wide range of structural variations, which impart unique chemical and biological properties to their classes and subclasses.
The consumption of a plant-based or phytochemical-rich diet has been associated with a reduced risk of chronic human illnesses such as certain types of cancers, inflammation, and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore the chemistry (isolation, identification, structural elucidation, and characterization) and biology (in vitro and in vivo bioactivities, mechanisms of action, absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion) of phytochemicals are of utmost importance for evaluation of their potential health benefits to humans. This chapter reviews the different types and classes of phytochemicals that have been identified from the pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) fruit (arils, rind, pith, pericarp, and seeds) and tree (bark, stems, leaves, and roots) with a focus on the dietary phytochemicals, in particular those found in the edible parts (fruit, peel, and seeds). Phytochemical methods of analyses as well as the roles that pomegranate phytochemicals play in bioactivity are also discussed.
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