Functional Super Foods for Optimal Health
Optimize Your Health with Functional Super Foods
What Are Functional Foods?
Functional foods are super foods that provide health benefits beyond just basic nutrition. Functional foods do more than just provide nutrients - they may play a role in reducing your risk of disease or in improving your overall health.
These foods include health-promoting ingredients or natural components found in conventional foods, fortified, enriched or enhanced foods.
What's the best way to incorporate functional foods into your diet?
The most effective way to reap the benefits of functional foods is to eat a balanced diet based on the five food groups. Then, include specific foods with beneficial components to meet your individual needs.
1. Get into the habit of reading health claims and food labels on food products, and scanning articles on the connection between foods and health. Practice healthy skepticism, however.
2. Consult with your health care provider before making any drastic changes in your diet, or if you have a particular health concern.
3. Choose a variety of foods from each food group (milk, meats and beans, fruits, vegetables and grains) to incorporate many potentially beneficial components into your diet.
4. Remember that there is no "magic bullet" that will guarantee health or cure or prevent all your health concerns.
Superfoods for Your Heart
Heart Healthy Foods
Superfoods for your heart contain multiple nutrients all of which contribute to heart health.
Heart healthy nutrients include fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, magnesium, vitamin C and antioxidants such as carotenoids and anthocyanins. Studies show all these nutrients individually promote heart health. For example, high fiber foods help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Folate decreases homocysteine, an amino acid which, at high levels, can lead to artery damage. Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure levels, while the antioxidant carotenoid lycopene can help prevent the oxidation of LDL "bad" cholesterol.
A single food containing several of these nutrients all with their own individual heart healthy benefits really is a Superfood for your Heart.
Foods to Nourish Your Brain
An Intelligent Diet
Boost your brainpower by feeding your brain "brain foods".
Here are 6 tips for an intelligent diet:
1. Balance your glucose - it provides fuel for your brain. Try to eat carbohydrate foods in the evening, as it promotes relaxation and sleep.
2. Eat essential fats - ensure your diet is rich in omega-3 fats found in oily fish.
3. Include plenty of protein rich foods in your diet. Proteins are essential to make neurotransmitters which are vital for the thinking process. Try to eat a protein based lunch to optimize your mental performance and alertness throughout the day.
4. Eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals to 'fine tune' your mind.
5. Drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water a day to keep your brain well hydrated.
6. Oxygenate your brain by exercising and eating little and often. Eat your main meal before 7pm.
The Miracle Fat
Omega-3 fatty acids have been referred to as a miracle fat. The correlation between so many of today's diseases and a deficiency, in the Standard Americans' Diets (SAD) is very strong. From our brain to our heart to our skin, the benefits of Omega-3's are indisputable.
Omega-3 and depression:
Omega-3 fats fight depression by altering the brain's neurotransmitters, increasing serotonin receptors and boosting dopamine levels in the frontal lobes. Dopamine is a substance that basically makes you more excited about life. It has been shown to increase drive and motivation, which is generally lacking in depressed people.
Omega-3 and heart disease:
We know that inflammation plays a major role in causing heart disease.
Animal studies and clinical trials have shown us that Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, have been shown to be pro-inflammatory. Just one more reason to avoid eating polyunsaturated oils. Several studies show an inverse association between fish consumption and heart disease. Fish consumption seems to be beneficial, and a systematic review of 11 studies, concluded that fish intake noticeably reduced overall mortality due to heart disease in populations who were at increased risk.
Omega-3 and autoimmune disorders:
There have been a number of clinical trials assessing the benefits of dietary supplementation with fish oils in several inflammatory and autoimmune diseases in humans, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis and migraine headaches. Many of the placebo-controlled trials of fish oil in chronic inflammatory diseases reveal significant benefits, including decreased disease activity and a lowered use of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Sources of Omega-3:
- Wild caught fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and trout.
- Fish oil supplements
Source: International Food Information Council
Health Benefits of Omega 3's
The Power of Antioxidants
Fruits and Vegetables Prevent Cancer
What is an antioxidant?
According to the National Cancer Institute, "antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals."
Examples of antioxidants. include beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins C and E, and other substances. Many of these protective antioxidant substances come from fruits and vegetables."
Beta-carotene is found in many fruits and vegetables that are orange in color, including carrots, some green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale are also rich in beta-carotene.
Lutein, best known for its association with healthy eyes, is abundant in green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, and kale.
Lycopene is a potent antioxidant found in tomatoes.
Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, such as apples, oranges, pineapple, acerola cherries, papaya, carrots, parsley, kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach and tomatoes.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant found in green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli.
Source: National Cancer Institute