We know we have to eat to live – food provides the building blocks to grow and repair our bodies, and we need food to produce energy to run vital processes. Beyond those basic needs, though, is the concept of “functional foods” – foods that might “provide benefits beyond basic nutrition” according to research and the International Food Information Council. What are some examples of these “functional foods” and what can they do for us?
- Blueberries – the color of blueberries are from pigments called anthocyanins; these may help reduce the incidence of cancer and stroke, and improve memory and learning.
- Walnuts – the Omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts have been found to reduce “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation. About 14 walnut halves is a good serving size (at close to 200 calories per serving, it is an energy-dense food).
- Broccoli – we might remember how George Bush declared he didn’t like broccoli, but perhaps he didn’t realize that the sulforophane in this veggie has anti-cancer properties that have been linked to the reduction of lung and stomach cancers.
- Legumes – this group includes kidney beans, lentils, green beans, soybeans, peanuts, and edamame (my favorite). Research indicates legumes have resistant starch which lowers blood sugar levels.
- Avocado – like guacamole? You’re in luck. The healthy monosaturated fats in this fruit (yup, it’s a fruit) help raise “good” HDL, and the avocado’s high level of potassium helps keep blood pressure in check.
So, there you have it – five fabulous functional foods that not only provide nutrition, but can actually improve our health.
Jan Cullinane is a best-selling author, speaker, and consultant. Her current book is AARP’s The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement (John Wiley & Sons). She is co-author of The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale) and Retire Happy! (Hallmark).
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