What are Functional Foods and How Can They Benefit My Health?

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Hippocrates said, “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food”. This could well be the tagline for functional foods.

It’s good advice. Especially in a day and age where our bodies are constantly being bombarded by toxins from our environment and food. The typical Western diet consists of processed foods and sugary sodas that may quell hunger pangs, but do very little to properly nourish the body. For optimum health, it is important to feed the body what it needs to function at its best. Let’s take a look at something called ‘functional foods’ and how they can benefit your health!

What are Functional Foods?

While the concept of functional foods is considered a revolution in Western society, cultures of the East have been using food medicinally since ancient times. Functional foods are foods that provide more than just basic nutrition. They are biologically designed to offer physical or psychological benefits. These foods do more than simply help avoid nutritional deficiencies, they offer “positive” nutrition, designed to have a direct and helpful impact on the body and mind.

In other words, functional foods are designed to “do” something. They may improve digestive health, reduce the risk of heart attack, increase longevity or help maintain a healthy body weight.

What are Some Examples of Functional Foods?

Cranberries – Cranberries and cranberry juice contain proanthocyandins, which have been shown to treat and prevent urinary tract infections and improve overall urinary tract health.

Wild-Caught Salmon – Wild-caught salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which have been reported to improve memory and cognitive function, decrease the painful inflammation of arthritis and lower risk of heart attack. Those who do not enjoy fish can experience these same benefits by supplementing their diet with krill oil.

Yogurt – Yogurt contains live, active cultures called probiotics. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that populate the gut, crowding out viruses and parasites and encouraging the regular flow of waste products from the body. They are designed to regulate the digestive system, whether that complaint is constipation or diarrhea.

Acai Berry – Pronounced a cee ya, this purple berry harvested from the Amazon rainforest has been said to increase longevity by fighting free radicals in the body that cause cellular death and premature aging.

Collard Greens – Organic, dark leafy greens are reported to have natural anti-cancer properties. Collard greens contain lutein, a substance noted to help prevent macular degeneration, an eye disease that commonly affects those aged 65 and over, by protecting retinal pigment cells.

Tomatoes – Research has shown that the lycopene in tomatoes may decrease the swelling of an enlarged prostate and may help prevent prostate cancer.

Chia Seeds – Chia is loaded with insoluble fibre (fibre that doesn’t dissolve in water) and has been noted to contribute bulk and moisture to the stool, decreasing constipation and diarrhea and aiding in the prevention of colon cancer. Chia Seeds are also gluten-free and IBS-friendly.

Dark Chocolate – A rich piece of dark, organic chocolate made with 70% cocoa has been known to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It has also been known to reduce the symptoms of neurological complaints such as muscle twitching and the movement disorder, dystonia.

Cayenne Pepper – This powerful spice is noted to ease the inflammation of arthritis and acts as a natural digestive aid.

Turmeric – This vibrant yellow spice commonly used in Indian dishes and the medical drink Golden Milk, has been shown to tighten the intestinal lining of those suffering with leaky gut syndrome and can be used topically to treat skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. Turmeric has a positive effect on mood and may assist in the prevention of alzheimers.

As you can see, there are many foods that can contribute to your health and well-being. The best part? There are functional foods that can meet your specific health needs – and they’re easy to include in your daily diet. ‘Let food by thy medicine’ all the way.

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