Functional foods are described as foods with positive health effects that extend beyond their nutritional value. My top five functional food picks are inexpensive, easily accessible and are in just about everyone’s fridges and pantries. I rave about avocados all the time, so I have excluded them from this list, but read on for my picks, and click on the links below for more information about each yummy functional food!
Oats are an affordable and easily accessible food, with many benefits. Oats contain ß-glucans and phytochemicals called saponins which help reduce total and LDL cholesterol, which may lead to a reduction in blood pressure. This, along with antioxidants found in oats, help decrease incidences of cardiovascular disease, heart failure and damage to walls of arteries, known as artherosclerosis. ß-glucans also help to stabilise blood sugar, as well as enhance immune function & resistance to bacterial infection.
Tomatoes contain a phytochemical called lycopene. Studies show that lycopene plays an important role as an anti-carcinogen, and may also reduce heart disease. Tomatoes are also rich in vitamins A and C, and folic acid. They also contain alpha-lipoic acic, choline, beta-carotene and lutein. Alpha-lipoic acid helps the body convert glucose into usable energy. Research suggests alpha-lipoic acid can also help in stabilising blood glucose levels. Choline found in tomatoes assists with sleep, learning, memory and muscle movement. It also helps to maintain the structural integrity of cell membranes and reduce chronic inflammation.
Consumption of garlic and/or garlic supplements positively effects the functioning of our immune system. Studies have shown a reduction in the number of and duration of colds with garlic supplementation. Also, active compounds found in garlic can help to reduce blood pressure. High doses of garlic are needed for this effect to be noticed, but in some instances, supplementation can be as effective as regular medications, according to numerous studies. Garlic can also lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. Garlic contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and ageing. It may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
is a powerhouse of goodness and has strong, positive effects on our body’s detoxification system. A group of phytonutrients found in broccoli are combined in such a way that they support all steps in the detoxification process. If broccoli is cooked by steaming, it can have cholesterol lowering effects. In addition to this, broccoli is a rich source of a flavonoid kaempferol, which research has shown can lessen the effects of allergy-related substances within the human body.
Green tea is considered a functional food/beverage because of the antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antimutagenic benefits that it possesses. Green tea contains high levels of potent antioxidants known as catechins. These are shown to help lower cholesterol by blocking its absorption in the GI tract and promoting its elimination from the body.
Incorporating some or all of these foods into your diet is both easy and affordable. Comment below with your favourite recipes involving these ingredients, or let me know how you would get these goodies in your belly on a daily basis!
Article by Rachel Gill
Rachel is a yoga teacher & student, mother and freelance writer based on the NSW mid-north coast, Australia. You can connect with her via her holistic lifestyle blog ‘Inspire The Wild‘, or on instagram, facebook and twitter @rachelmarieyoga.