Superfoods are old hat. If you’re looking for superfoods, you might have fallen prey to a clever marketer. Don’t believe us? The group Cancer Research UK is on the record about what a superfood is: “The term ‘superfoods’ is really just a marketing tool, with little scientific basis”. Instead, have you heard of functional foods? Functional foods do more than taste good – they work extra hard to round out your nutritional profile so you can win at being healthy. Here are a few of the hardest-working functional foods.
Quintessential Quinoa: Quinoa is the talk of the universe of late due to its health benefits. Quinoa is devoid of gluten, high in protein content and of good biological value since it contains all the essential amino acids.
– It is also high in fiber, magnesium, B-vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants
– It contains large amounts of flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol. These are potent plant antioxidants with numerous health benefits.
Almighty Almonds: Almonds have been prized since ancient times as one of humankind’s most beloved nuts. Today, almonds’ nutritional values are praised around the world, and they are used in numerous ways: eaten raw as a healthy snack or as the base ingredient in almond butter, almond milk or almond flour.
They also have the following health benefits:
– Cholesterol reduction is the most celebrated benefit of almonds among others.
– They contain filling fiber, unique and protective phytosterol antioxidants, as well as plant protein.
– Almonds are actually beneficial when it comes to losing weight, despite their higher calorie content. One study even found that almonds consumed as snacks reduce hunger and the desire to eat later in the day and when dieters eat almonds daily, they reduce their overall calorie intake.
Prebiotic Pulses: The health benefits of pulses/lentils include a high protein content, improved digestion, a healthy heart, diabetes control, control of cancer, weight loss, a solution for anemia, and better electrolytic activity due to potassium.
These functional foods are good for pregnant women, for the prevention of atherosclerosis and they help in maintaining a healthy nervous system.
– Prebiotic carbohydrates are important components of healthy diets. Lentils are naturally rich in prebiotic carbohydrates.
– Green lentils are becoming extremely popular as they have been found to clear the digestive system and positively affect colon function and serum lipids. Green lentils that are soaked overnight and allowed to sprout are considered highly nutritious.
– Green lentils are also helpful in countering diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Lentils have low glycaemic indices, low-fat content, and high fiber, making them good for fighting various diseases and maintaining overall digestive and colon health.
Rocking Rolled Oats: Rolled oats are traditionally oat groats that have been de-husked, steamed and then rolled into flat flakes under heavy rollers before being stabilized by being lightly toasted.
They are termed functional foods as,
– Whole oats are an excellent source of thiamine, iron, and dietary fiber. They are also the only source of antioxidant compounds known as avenanthramides; these are believed to have properties which help to protect the circulatory system from arteriosclerosis.
– Eating oatmeal is good for cleaning artery walls because the fiber“sets up a barrier” for fat deposits that accumulates in them and that can cause a lot of cardiac, cholesterol and more problems.
– Oat products also contain beta-glucan, which may help people with type-2 diabetes control their blood glucose level and might also help stimulate the immune system to fight off bacterial infections.
– Thanks to the huge amount of amino acids that they contain, oats stimulate the production of lectin in the liver, promoting the complete cleansing of toxins from the body.
Mighty Millets (Foxtail Millet): Millets are very high in their nutrition content and are among the top functional foods. Each millet is three to five times nutritionally superior to rice and wheat in terms of proteins, minerals, and vitamins.
– Millets are rich in B-vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, are also gluten-free and have a low GI (glycaemic index). Thus millets are suitable for people with allergies/intolerance of wheat.
– Studies have shown that the carbohydrates and fiber in foxtail millet are beneficial for diabetics, reducing blood sugar levels by about 70%.
– Studies have shown that switching to foxtail millet also exhibits lower triglyceride levels in the blood. While lowering the amount of LDL, it also helps increase the number of high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
– Foxtail millet has a low glycaemic index and it is an ideal substitute for rice or other grains that could cause blood sugar spikes since energy is released slowly.
Regular use of foxtail millet also guards against oxidative damage and coronary diseases. Whereas rice may be devoid of essential minerals and vitamins, foxtail millet has adequate amounts of both beside being rich in all amino acids, making it a desirable food for diabetes and weight loss.
Saviour Seeds (Chia Seeds and Flaxseed): The next big thing in nutrition might be these tiny seeds. Chia and flax seeds are perfect functional food examples.
– Chia seeds are high in quality protein, much higher than most plant foods. Protein is the most weight-loss-friendly macronutrient and can drastically reduce appetite and cravings.
– When combined with a real-food-based diet and a healthy lifestyle, chia seeds could help with weight loss as they are very high in omega-3 fatty acids.
– Chia seeds can significantly lower blood pressure and are a marker for inflammation. Almost all of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fibre. This gives them the ability to absorb 10-12 times their weight in water. Fibre also has various beneficial effects on health.
– Flax seeds are great for your heart health. Not only do they help prevent the formation of plaque within your arteries, but they also prevent atherosclerosis (when the arteries become stiff and less elastic), reduce blood pressure, heart rate and beat oxidative stress (due to the antioxidant properties).
– Flaxseeds can help lower the levels of bad cholesterol (or LDL cholesterol), thereby protecting your heart.
– The high content of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids protect against breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer. Flaxseeds can also help reduce inflammation and are especially beneficial for people who suffer from arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. (http://www.webmd.com/)
Capable Coconut Milk: Selenium found in coconut milk is an antioxidant, which relieves arthritis symptoms by controlling free radicals and decreasing the risk of joint inflammation.
– Though coconut milk contains saturated fat, it can actually reduce cholesterol levels in comparison to butter and dairy-based creams. This is because its lauric acid boosts HDL (good cholesterol) levels. When choosing among saturated fats, coconut milk is preferable as it is easier for the body to break down and metabolize healthy fats such as omega-6 essential fatty acids.
– Coconut milk is a rich source of magnesium. This mineral helps to calm the nerves and maintain normal blood pressure, as well as prevent nerve cells from becoming overactive by virtue of being stimulated by calcium. This results in the reduction of muscle contraction, thus making you feel more relaxed.
– Coconut milk is often considered a fattening agent due to its saturated fats. But it is also rich in fiber, which makes you feel full longer and if taken in moderation, can help to control weight.
– Coconut milk contains lauric acid, antimicrobial lipids and capric acid which possess antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties that strengthen the immune system.
Captivating Cauli-rice (It’s rice-less rice!): It’s an amazing culinary addition for those who don’t want to eat grains, have diabetes and/or are looking to control sugar intake, or for those who are looking for a healthier and low-calorie alternative to carbohydrate-rich foods. One of the more popular variations is cauliflower rice, or simply “cauli-rice,” and it’s gaining momentum as a rice substitute. Cauli-rice has 75% fewer calories than white rice, is low carb as well as low GI.
Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C, has anti-inflammatory benefits and supports digestion. Cauliflower recipes run the gamut from simple to complex and can be used as a carbohydrate substitute in all types of dishes. (https://wellbeinghi.com)
Satiating Seitan (Fashionable Vegetarian Protein): Seitan is wheat extract, and most commonly known as “vegetable meat”. It is considered a healthy food, recommended especially as a protein source for vegetarians.
– Its high protein, calcium and mineral content sans the fat turns seitan into the perfect protein. This is an easy digestive food, so it is beneficial for people with stomach aches and digestive problems.
– There are no saturated fats in seitan which helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels, decreasing the risk of heart disease.
– By virtue of its high protein content, it proves beneficial for muscle growth and can be used by athletes and weight trainers.
– It does not contain sodium, so seitan is a beneficial food for people suffering from hypertension problems.
Nom-Nom Noodles: Glass noodles are known by more than 10 different names, but some of the most common ones include cellophane noodles, mung bean threads, and mung bean noodles. They are thus different from the normal egg noodles or hakka noodles since they are made from mung bean starch.
Even though glass noodles are high in carbohydrates, they do not cause a spike in blood sugar. Any food with a GI score of 55 or less has a small effect on levels of sugar. With a glycaemic index score of 45, glass noodles rate as a low-glycemic carbohydrate.
– Mung bean noodles contain the B-complex vitamins including folate which is essential for energy and brain activity, including mood and memory. Folate is required for erythropoiesis and helps prevent birth defects and abnormalities of the brain and spine in the fetus, such as spina bifida.
Charming Chocolate: Yes, chocolate (although unsweetened) is good for you and is a form of functional food. The potential benefits of eating chocolate may include the following:
– Research results indicate that regular consumption of chocolate bars containing plant sterols and cocoa flavanols as part of a low-fat diet may support cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure.
– Researchers found that a cocoa extract called lavado may reduce or block damage to nerve pathways found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This means that symptoms of the condition such as cognitive decline could be prevented.
– Researchers suggest that consuming a small amount of chocolate every day may lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Research published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that a little dark chocolate may improve performance in fitness training.
Perfect Psyllium: Psyllium is known to us by the familiar name of isabgol. Far from being something our grandmother used, most of us could do with a good dose of psyllium in today’s world of processed food.
– Psyllium affects heart health by lowering blood pressure, improving lipid levels, and strengthening heart muscle.
– Because psyllium absorbs liquid in your body, it can help give you a feeling of being full. This can help you control the amount of food you eat.
– People with diabetes are constantly watching their diet to maintain a healthy balance of insulin and blood sugar (glucose). Some research has suggested that fibers like psyllium can help maintain a healthy glycaemic balance. (http://www.healthline.com/)
Wonderful Whey Protein: Whey protein has very high nutritional value and is one of the best dietary sources of high-quality protein. It is highly digestible and absorbed quickly, compared to other proteins, making it a functional food.
– It lowers blood pressure. Long-term, high-dose whey protein supplementation may lower cholesterol levels.
– High doses of whey protein have been shown to reduce blood levels of C-reactive protein, indicating that it can help reduce inflammation called lactokinins. Whey protein supplements may have beneficial effects on inflammatory bowel disease.
– Whey protein is effective in moderating blood sugar levels, especially when taken before or with high-carb meals. It may be particularly useful for people with type-2 diabetes.
– Whey protein is very satiating, even more so than other types of protein. This makes it a useful addition to a weight-loss diet.
Functional foods such as these can give you a real boost when it comes to maintaining your health regimen. So you can just relax a bit and let some of these foods do some of the heavy lifting.
Why not start your functional food diet from today? Our Slow Carb Rolled Oat Breakfast is packed with rolled oats, almond meal, and chia seeds (all functional foods discussed above!), rich in lignin and beta glucan, (which are good sources of dietary fibre and antioxidants), releases sustained energy over hours, has a low glycaemic index (will not spike blood sugar levels) and is high-protein and gluten-free!