Functional food, by definition, has specific nutrients that serve a specific purpose. Functional foods have a positive effect on health beyond their basic nutritional value.
According to the Institute for Functional Medicine, research shows that disease prevention, health, and surgical recovery improve when supported by proper nutrition.
Probiotic and prebiotic foods, such as fermented vegetables (sauerkraut), fermented dairy (yogurt and kefir), raw chicory root, and raw dandelion greens have been shown to promote good intestinal health and populate the intestines with beneficial bacteria. Plant sterols, found in most plant food, have shown to have cholesterol-lowering benefit. Tomatoes, which are high in lycopene, positively influence cholesterol and glucose levels. Lycopene is also considered an antioxidant.
Certain fish are high in the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These fatty acids have shown to reduce triglycerides and reduce coronary heart disease. Salmon, trout, halibut, striped bass, and flounder all have high Omega-3 content.
Nuts are another example of a functional food. They are high in vitamin E and monounsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Nuts also help the body to make glutathione; the body’s natural antioxidant.
Many foods from the plant family, including herbs and spices are high in phytochemicals. Phytochemicals have been found to boost overall health.
The list of foods that we can consider functional is lengthy. Eating a whole-food diet and avoiding packaged/ processed foods is a good place to start to increase the intake of functional foods.
We are plagued by chronic disease today. Most of these chronic diseases respond well to nutritional interventions. Obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease are tied to diet and lifestyle. By increasing our whole, functional food intake we have the possibility to affect the disease process and improve our quality of life.
Eating is a great pleasure, yet too often we neglect the fact that our diet should be to improve and maintain our health.
“Too often, physicians ignore the potential benefits of good nutrition and quickly prescribe medications instead of giving patients a chance to correct their disease through healthy eating and active living. If we are to slow down the obesity epidemic and reduce the complications of chronic disease, we must consider changing our culture’s mind-set from “live to eat” to “eat to live.” The future of health care will involve an evolution toward a paradigm where the prevention and treatment of disease is centered, not on a pill or surgical procedure, but on another serving of fruits and vegetables.”
If you would like to learn more about how to use food to optimize and regain your health, please call the office at 561-819-0530 to schedule your appointment.
(Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets; Phillip J Tuso, MD; Mohamed H Ismail, MD; Benjamin P Ha, MD; Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. Perm J 2013 Spring; 17(2):61-66)