Yes all foods are to some extent functional in that they provide nutrients such as protein for muscle repair, carbohydrates for energy, or vitamins and minerals for cell function. But let’s face it: food isn’t what it used to be!
We live in pretty toxic environments, a lot of food you find in the supermarket are really 'food-like' products. Ideally, we all want to be eating a balanced whole food diet, but in reality we might not be getting all the nutrients we need.
In the paper ‘Enough is Enough. Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements’, the authors concluded there is still no real significant scientific evidence to support the use of supplementation. However, opting for unprocessed whole foods, organic is where it's at. These foods are loaded with additional health benefits, these are your functional foods, and they'll make you feel ‘super human’. Here are 7 functional foods to start eating now.
Organic maca powderWhat is maca powder and why would you want to put it in your smoothie? Maca is a Peruvian herb rich in vitamins (B1, B2, B12, C and E) and essential minerals (calcium, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, silica, sodium, zinc, manganese, copper and iron), and high in fatty acids omega-3 and omega-9.
While the scientific evidence is limited, maca has a reputation for being able to balance hormones, and has been used successfully in traditional medicine for menopausal discomfort and infertility. Maca is awesome in smoothies.
Psyllium huskEven if you think you have a healthy gut, bloating, constipation, gas, fatigue, food cravings, allergies and difficulty losing weight can all be signs you need to detox your colon.
To cleanse your colon, you’ll need to up your fibre intake. Three bowel movements per day to three per week is considered the normal range. But what’s more important than frequency is the ease with which you move your bowels. If you’re not within the normal range and/or have difficulty moving, you really need to get more fibre in you! You should be aiming for about 22 grams of fibre a day. Psyllium is a great way to help you smash your fibre goals.
Psyllium is 30 percent insoluble fibre, which is known to promote regularity. A 5 gram serving of psyllium husk contains 5 grams of fibre. So make your smoothies more super by added 5-10 grams of psyllium to help get things moving down there.
Flaxseeds contain high levels of dietary fibre (both soluble and insoluble) including lignans, which are powerful antioxidants. They are also packed with micronutrients and essential omega-3 fatty acids plus an abundance of other nutrients and vitamins including calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and vitamin E.
Zinc and magnesium may have roles in effective acne treatment. So eating foods like flaxseed that are good sources of zinc and magnesium might help you get glowing skin.
Reputedly the highest plant-based source of complete protein, chia offers twice the amount in most grains. These tiny seeds are also packed with fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, rare antioxidants, minerals and calcium. They contain three times the antioxidants of blueberries, five times more calcium than milk, three times the iron in spinach and twice the amount of potassium found in bananas. Hydrated chia seeds in water are an easy way to increase your intake of these super seeds.
Almonds are a great source of plant protein. A quarter cup of almonds will provide you with about 8 grams of protein. Almonds are also loaded with antioxidants like flavonoids. Flavonoids found in almond skin combined with vitamin E double the antioxidant power of almonds.
Almonds are also a good source of phtyonutrients that give you the type of sustained energy you need to get through the day, which is why almonds make awesome snacks. We've added this functional food to a re-worked version of a crumble.
Coconut anything is undoubtably one of the most super of all the functional foods. Made up mostly of medium chain fatty acids, this fat is easily broken down and converted to energy - like carbs but without the insulin spike. This is also why coconut is referred to as a thermogenic food, it burns fat! The fats in coconut actually boost your metabolism and help your body use fat for energy, as opposed to storing it. Cook with it, add it to your smoothies, or un-bake with it.
The superfood powers of turmeric are often over looked in the Western culture, it’s just that turmeric is not really a prominent ingredient for us. Much of turmeric’s powerful properties are due to high quantities of antioxidants, anti inflammatory compounds, and phytonutrients – all of which have been studied in depth, especially for cancer prevention.
These studies have focused on curcumin. The main component and active ingredient found in turmeric - responsible for the medicinal benefits and properties. These studies use pretty high does, more than what we would be able to get in our daily diets anyway. If you can get into a habit of incorporating turmeric into your meals, smoothies or breakfast bowls on the regular, then you will be more likely to benefit from this functional food. Try it in your smoothies like this golden turmeric smoothie.