by Aimee Wojtowecz
If you’re into CrossFit, which is almost certain if you’re coming across this blog, you’re familiar with Functional Fitness, but what about Functional Foods? Functional foods are foods that may have a positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition. Meaning that you’re not just looking at food as fuel but also for what that food is doing for you. What’s the specific goal you have in mind when choosing a particular food? Let’s look at salmon for example. You may decide to choose salmon as your protein at dinner not only because you know you need protein to build muscle, but also because it’s high in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Or blueberries; you might put blueberries on your oatmeal for taste and color, but also for fiber and the multitude of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants they contain that you’re looking for to boost your overall health.
Functional foods cover a variety of foods. Minimally processed, whole foods along with fortified, enriched or enhanced foods, can all be functional foods. Generally, these foods have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed on a regular basis and at certain levels.
So let’s take a look at the top ten Functional Foods to boost your health:
Fatty fish, like salmon, sardines, trout and herring, are among some of the best choices. They are lower in mercury and have higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower risk of heart disease. About eight ounces of seafood a week is a good goal for adults, which amounts to two meals per week.
They make a great snack, help you feel full and may help promote heart health. Bonus: most unsalted nuts, including cashews and almonds, are good sources of magnesium, which plays a role in managing blood pressure.
Oatmeal has long been recognized for its dietary fiber, an under consumed nutrient of public health concern in the United States, which may help lower cholesterol and assist with blood sugar control. Other whole grains, such as whole barley, farro and buckwheat, also offer a variety of similar health benefits.
Beans provide protein, folate, and are some of the most inexpensive high fiber foods, particularly in soluble fiber. This fiber, as opposed to insoluble fiber, is particularly beneficial. Because your body can’t break down soluble fiber, it takes up space in your stomach without getting absorbed by your blood, slowing digestion and leaving you fuller on fewer calories. More soluble fiber may also help to reduce blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and colon cancer.
Whether you opt for strawberries, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries, berries are a powerhouse of nutrition. Not only are they low in calories, their anthocyanin pigments, which give them color, offer many health benefits.
Fermentation, a process by which natural, beneficial bacteria break down the starches in food, is not only good for preserving food; it’s also been found to increase levels of nutrients and have immense benefits on your gut health due to their levels of probiotics (those beneficial bacteria that pre-digest the food).
Eggs are one of the densest sources of protein and choline, a B vitamin that is essential for cell functioning as well as a compound that turns off the genes that cause your body to store fat around your liver. They’re also rich in the anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and bone-strengthening vitamin D.
Studies have connected consumption of olive oil to lower blood pressure. Regularly consuming EVOO has also been shown to boost levels of adiponectin, a hormone that breaks down fat. Additionally, EVOO is a natural inflammation fighter thanks to oleocanthal. This compound, found only in unrefined, phenolic-rich, extra virgin olive oils, prevents the production of pro-inflammatory COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, which have been implicated in increasing risk of serious cardiovascular events.
Not only are apples a great source of healthy, energy-revving carbs, they’re full of water and fiber to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Not to mention, apples are packed with heart-healthy flavonoids like quercetin, an antioxidant that has been found to play a role in improving exercise endurance and staving off the stress hormone cortisol.
When it comes to vitamin C, oranges are usually at the top of the list but red peppers actually offer the highest amount of this inflammatory-biomarker-reducing compound: an astounding 300 percent in just half a cup! Vitamin C is vital to boost your immunity and suppress inflammation.
The components of your food make up the foundation of your entire system. Various nutrients; vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids, essential fatty acids, probiotics, complex carbohydrates, and more are essential for keeping you healthy. By providing your body with what it needs each day, you are setting yourself up for a state of optimal health. But don’t forget FUN is also a necessary part of your nutrition, don’t get hung up on being perfect. Make the best choices you can that align with your goals most of the time and you’ll be just fine.