Have you ever wanted to get more out of the food you are eating but not sure how? Luckily for us, food is medicine and can offer an array of health benefits outside of what we initially think food can provide nutritionally. In fact, there is a term given to such foods, they are called ‘functional foods.’ Functional foods are defined as foods that serve a purpose to health beyond offering basic nutrition. Functional foods are one of the greatest ways to boost the health benefits of the diet and a simple way to get more from food.
If you are looking to give your diet a boost here are some everyday foods, which are considered functional:
Whole rolled oats: not just a source of complex carbs, but also contain beta-glucan, a dietary fibre which feeds bacteria in our gut. Beta-glucan aids the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are protective against colon cancer and also play a role in glucose metabolism.
- Start the day with porridge or muesli made from ½ cup rolled oats
- Add rolled oats to baking and pattie mixes
- Add 1 tbsp. oats to a morning smoothie
Brassica Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale): other than being a source of vitamins and minerals, such vegetables also contain sulforaphane, a compound known to enhance detoxification processes within the body.
- Perfect addition to stir-fry’s
- Try roasting broccoli and cauliflower as a dinner side or add to salads
- Make a broccoli/cauliflower soup
- Use cabbage and kale as the base of salads/slaw
Soy beans/soy-based foods: contain natural isoflavones (Daidzein and Genistein), which mimic the effect of oestrogen in the body and may moderate oestrogen levels. Isoflavones are believed to be particularly beneficial during menopause to support healthy hormone balance.
- Try soy milk with breakfast or in a smoothie
- Add tofu/tempeh to stir-fry’s or salads
- Swap with eggs and serve on sprouted bread with avocado for a quick breakfast
Fatty fish/Salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds: other than being a rich supply of protein, such foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, studied for their beneficial effect on cardiovascular disease, mental function and for their anti-inflammatory effects.
- Poach salmon and flake through a salad or top on a sandwich
- Snack on a handful of walnuts
- Add 1 tbsp. flaxseeds to smoothies or on porridge
- Drizzle salads/vegetables with flaxseed oil
Sweet potato, pumpkin, spinach and carrots: all a source of beta-carotene, a carotenoid, which acts as an antioxidant in the body to reduce free radical damage. Also Beta-carotene can be converted into Vitamin A, a fat-soluble nutrient for use by the body.
- Add carrots when roasting pumpkin/potato
- Use carrot or sweet potato as the base of a dip/puree
- Add a handful of spinach to breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Add spinach to smoothies/green juice
Cooked tomato: tomatoes are a source of lycopene, a phytochemical studied for maintenance of prostate health. Specifically, cooked tomato, including tomato puree, offers a more concentrated source of lycopene. Similarly, when tomato is cooked with oil lycopene absorption is enhanced.
- Sautee tomato, garlic and onion in olive oil, puree and use as a quick sauce
- Add cherry tomatoes to the baking tray when roasting vegetables
- Use tomato in stews, curries and casseroles
Turmeric: contains an active ingredient called curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory traditionally believed to support digestion and healthy cholesterol balance. Curcumin is poorly absorbed, to enhance absorption eat alongside a source of fat such as coconut or olive oil and add a pinch of black pepper.
- Add to smoothies/juices
- Toss roasted vegetables in turmeric before roasting
- Use in marinades
- Try a warming gold milk drink