Functional food is a relatively new term in the area of nutrition but it is gaining interest among nutritionists and consumers alike.
The term functional food is defined by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board as “any food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains.”
Some of the naturally-occurring chemicals or components that provide the health benefits of functional foods are referred to as phytochemicals. Studies are still being conducted to determine the exact role of these food components in disease prevention.
Functional foods have been associated with the prevention and/or treatment of the four leading causes of death in the US, which are:
- cardiovascular disease
Certain functional foods have also been shown to help memory function. As an older adult, functional foods can be very beneficial. Statistics show that 87% of older Americans have one or more chronic diseases that can be improved with nutrition therapy including cancer, diabetes mellitus, high blood cholesterol, chronic lung disease, osteoporosis, obesity, high blood pressure, dementia, and congestive heart failure.
The list of functional foods, their components or phytochemicals and the health benefits they provide continues to grow. Here’s a sample list of official functional foods:
- cruciferous vegetables (like cabbage and lettuce)
- eggs (especially yolk)
- flax seeds
- fish oils
- psyllium husk – add it to your snack shakes
- red grapes
- rolled oats
- green tea
- wheat bran
- whole grains
It is agreed by many in the health profession that functional foods are no magic bullet and cannot be used to make up for poor eating habits but there appears to be benefits to adding them to your daily diet. With the variety of functional foods it’s easy to incorporate them into your diet all day long.
The following is a sample menu illustrating use of functional foods:
- Soy milk
- Whole wheat bread
- Tomato slices
- Romaine lettuce
- Steamed broccoli
- Baked sweet potato
- Pasta and Vegetable salad
- Mixed fruit
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Filed under: Nutrition, Steaming diets by Nessie