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Functional Super Foods for Optimal Health

Updated on June 24, 2012

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.

Source: www.mealsmatter.org

Superfoods for Your Heart

Heart Healthy Foods

Superfoods

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.

Brain Food

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.

Omega 3's

The Miracle Fat

Omega-3

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

Health Benefits of Omega 3's
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

Cancer Prevention

Cancer Prevention
Cancer Prevention

How Healthy is your Diet?

smart foods
smart foods

How Many Servings Of Fruits and Vegetables Do You Eat Per Day?

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Thoughts? Suggestions?

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    • Ahdilarum profile image

      Ahdilarum 5 years ago

      Useful information in this lens

    • profile image

      garyhennesrealtors 5 years ago

      Good stuff thanks for sharing this.

    • profile image

      JaneDorey 5 years ago

      My mother is struggling with heart problems and wanted to find a good guide for healthy food specifically beneficial for her heart. This lens just made my day, I'll be able to show my mother not only a list of healthy foods, but a list super-foods that will help with her heart problems. I truly appreciate your contribution.

    • profile image

      joandavidson 5 years ago

      This is a very interesting lens you have here. Thank you for sharing about functional super foods which may lead to giving optimal health.Very informative about the variety of food and medications that you recommended. DePuy Pinnacle Recall

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      rendlysaper 5 years ago

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      rendlysaper 5 years ago

      the information provided in this article supply the needed information on depuy hip recall class action

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      James-M 5 years ago

      This is the first time i hear the concept of "superfood", but after reading through your lens it makes a lot of sense and I can clearly see the benefits of finding and most importantly using foods that holds great health value.

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      Frecharles 5 years ago

      Your posting is quietly written and simply clear as well. Thanks. Will wait for your next post.

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      Frecharles 5 years ago

      Your posting is quietly written and simply clear as well. Thanks. Will wait for your next post.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Congratulations on a great food lens

      Regarding healthy sweetners - I read this article by Dr. Mercola > articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/08/the-4-best-and-3-worst-sweeteners-to-have-in-your-kitchen.aspx?e_cid=20111008_DNL_art_3

    • profile image

      PninetyxReviews 6 years ago

      Wow! What a great job you did with this lens. Very informative et useful! Thank you! 5 stars.

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    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I love your lense, I am a strong believer in optimal health, and think that people can keep themselves healthy by eating right and exercising regularly. My Health Blog: http://canandaiguanychiropractic.com/category/chir...

    • profile image

      zoloftlawsuit 6 years ago

      I have been trying to eat healthy and focus on nutritious foods such as variety of fruits and vegetables and healthy portion of protein and carbohydrates. I hope I can keep this up. Hip Replacement Recall

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 6 years ago

      good reminders of a healthy diet. Glad to see information like this on squidoo.

    • bernie74 lm profile image

      bernie74 lm 6 years ago

      Great lens and very helpful thank you

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 6 years ago

      Nicely done, blessed and added to Diet and Nutrition Squid Angel:-)

    • profile image

      LocalBizSg 7 years ago

      wow i can say i've never seen such an informative site. i have been a vegetarian since 2 months ago and i now feel more healthier and lightier.

      Get healthier go vegetarian, vegetarian restaurant singapore

      all the best to all.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Fantastic lens. Very informative. I can bet less than 50% of those reading this lens are aware of your information.

    • profile image

      WriterBuzz 7 years ago

      Wow, your lens is cool. Just thought I'd leave a comment to let you know. I also gave you a thumbs-up and made you one of my favs. Thanks for sharing this information. If you have time, surf on by and check out my newest lens on Migraine Headaches. Leave me a comment on what you think .

    • valjean1111 profile image

      valjean1111 7 years ago

      I've been trying to get more functional foods in my diet - some days are better than others. Yet I know I should eat even more instead of junk food. For more tips for good health, I invite you to check out the healthy living guide on my site. Thanks for the tips.

    • sanamionline profile image

      sanamionline 7 years ago

      i eat more than 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables

    • profile image

      the-fitness-guru 7 years ago

      The "brain food" part is so smart!! I know a lot of people don't even know that their brains will work better if they keep their bodies healthy and fit! I know the 8 healthiest foods to add to your weekly diet that will help you get the proper nutrition and even improve and help with your fitness!

    • profile image

      HealthFreak2009 7 years ago

      Absolutely fantastic lens. I really like the content, the look, everything. Awesome!

    • Kate Phizackerl1 profile image

      Kate Phizackerl1 8 years ago

      What a treat - a quality Health lens. Blessed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Nice Lens. Very Good Info. 5**. Please Visit Health Articles Blog & Find All Health Articles on various Topics. If you like them so please link it on your websites or blogs.

    • profile image

      jayjeffers 8 years ago

      Hi Michelle

      What a great lens.It looks well cool and good content,aint it good to have healthy interests.Will be back again,will add to favs

    • profile image

      totalhealth 8 years ago

      well done and very informative. it's a well deserved 5 stars.

    • profile image

      totalhealth 8 years ago

      well done and very informative. it's a well deserved 5 stars.

    • giacombs-ramirez profile image

      gia combs-ramirez 8 years ago from Montana

      Beautiful lens and info!

    • profile image

      homecarediva 8 years ago

      Very informative lens - goes into my favs! I should compliment the design separately. I wonder how I can learn such neat highlights. It makes it look much less cookies-cutter style.

      PS. just got accepted into your group :)

    • sittonbull profile image

      sittonbull 8 years ago

      Nice lens on nutrition fundamentals.

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      AntioxidantGuyg 8 years ago

      Great info

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      jamesanderson1346 8 years ago

      Good lens. 5** to your lens. Read Health Articles Health is very important for all people. without this no wealth works.

    • sunworld lm profile image

      sunworld lm 8 years ago

      Though I personally favor a vegan diet, I applaud your lens and the wealth of good information you provide. thanks

    • eclecticeducati1 profile image

      eclecticeducati1 8 years ago

      Great lens! 5*

    • profile image

      herbie66 8 years ago

      Welcome to the 'Pregnancy and Baby' Group

      ( http://www.squidoo.com/groups/pregnancy-baby )

    • profile image

      tdove 8 years ago

      Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!

    • MBradley McCauley profile image

      MBradley McCauley 9 years ago

      At 71 with six stents in my heart and on meds for hp, I finally put myself on a nutritional road to a healthy heart. I've even created a healthy food and spices web site and lens. Your information is right on and I hope people find your monarch info.

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 9 years ago from Northern California

      Looks like one I need to read carefully for my nutrition class. Thank you for adding this to the Month of Thanks Challenge.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Wonderful resource and solid, useful information for healthy eating that is back to basics.

    • profile image

      JD_Blackstar 9 years ago

      Five star lens. Solid information about creating varied diets rich in all the necessary macro nutrients.

    • profile image

      momsherbs 9 years ago

      This lens has great resources! 5 stars.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Excellent as usual Monarch! Welcome to my Natural Medicine Group :)

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 9 years ago

      Hi Monarch,

      This is a SUPER lens - great work!!! *****