All The Hype: Functional Foods

Did you know poor diet plays a role in 5 out of 10 of the leading causes of death? In order to combat this growing problem, scientists began researching foods that can offer us added health benefits. With words like “Functional Foods,” and “Super Foods,” being thrown around, it can be tricky to evaluate all the different health claims.

While the FDA does not have a specific definition of functional foods, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics defines a functional food as a food that provides additional health benefits that may reduce disease risk and/or promote good health. In fact, by definition, almost all foods are actually functional because they deliver some type of physiological benefit such as protein for muscle repair, carbohydrates for ample energy and vitamins and minerals for important cell function; others are modified to contain health benefits, giving them a more specific function. Therefore, it can be complicated to determine which foods are truly functional foods. To ease some confusion, the FDA does outline criteria for “significant scientific agreement,” among which foods are considered functional or not.

There are an abundance of functional foods for us to enjoy regularly and easily. Some include conventional foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts, and modified foods like yogurt, cereal and orange juice. Still, other functional foods are medical foods such as LIPISORB, which is prescribed to AIDS patients. This food contains specific vitamins and minerals, among other substances, shown to be helpful in AIDS treatment.

Still, other functional foods are medical foods like specific formulations of foods and beverages for certain health conditions or foods for special dietary use. However, they all have one certain concept in common: all of these foods have been thoroughly studied and show that they provide health benefits or promote good health beyond that of other foods.

Looking for some specific functional foods to incorporate into your diet? You’ve come to the right place. Five of the most functional foods according to scientific studies include sardines and salmon, nuts, whole grains, beans and berries. Salmon, sardines and even beans can be the bulk of a scrumptious dinner, while nuts and berries provide a healthy snack to boost energy and stay focused. There are infinite ways to integrate these functional foods into your diet, and they will provide you with added health benefits, which is always helpful!

A few other functional foods include the following:

  • Oats
  • Soy
  • Avocados
  • Kale
  • Flaxseed
  • Green Tea
  • Oranges
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes

Remember, it can be tricky to determine which foods are truly considered functional, but sticking to scientific research will always lead you in the right direction. While eating functional foods won’t make up for poor eating habits, they will offer you various added health benefits to promote ideal health. Eat a balanced and varied diet to obtain the greatest benefits and try to include as many functional foods along with your balanced diet for yummy meals and optimal health.

Photo credit: Laura Asbury, FBM

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Tags: Avocados × × × functional food × × × Oats × Soy × super food × superfood

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