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What are Functional Foods?

What are Functional Foods?

In recent years, functional foods have gained in interest and popularity within health circles.

A common question is “What are functional foods?”

Functional foods are a variety of foods and ingredients that have beneficial health effects that extend beyond their simple nutritional value. They promote optimal health and help reduce the risk of disease.

To effectively answer this question, remember that most natural foods are functional as they deliver physiological benefits including protein for muscle repair, carbohydrates for energy, and vitamins and minerals for cell function.

Essentially, functional foods are foods that include additional health benefits beyond basic nutrition and are designed to improve health.

Also known as nutraceuticals, nutrient dense functional foods are highly nutritious and associated with a number of powerful health benefits.

Examples of Functional Foods

From the Healthline article, “What Are Functional Foods? All You Need to Know”, here are some examples of functional foods: 

  • Fruits: berries, kiwi, pears, peaches, apples, oranges
  • Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, zucchini
  • Nuts: almonds, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts
  • Seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Legumes: black beans, chickpeas, navy beans, lentils
  • Whole grains: oats, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, couscous
  • Seafood: salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, cod
  • Fermented foods: tempeh, kombucha, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut
  • Herbs and spices: turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper

Functional foods are foods that may:

- Prevent nutrient deficiencies – nutrient dense functional foods are typically high in important nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber.

- Protect against disease – many are especially rich in antioxidants. These molecules help neutralize harmful compounds known as free radicals, helping prevent cell damage and certain chronic health conditions.

Functional foods can be used to boost your family’s intake of important nutrients, fill in any gaps in their diet, and support overall good health. So, when planning your family’s meals, consider including as many functional foods as possible to help provide all the nutrition necessary to stay as healthy as possible.

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