Functional foods are foods that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. They contain bioactive compounds, which contribute to health and wellness and are believed to reduce the risk of some chronic diseases.
The great thing about functional foods is that you will find many of them at your local grocery store. Many are familiar foods that you may already enjoy as part of your diet; others are added easily to everyday meals.
Here are some examples of food components that are believed to have health benefits and where you can find them.
|Ingredient||Why it may be good for you||Where to find it|
|Beta-carotene||Helps prevent cell damage; may decrease risk of certain types of cancer||Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe|
|Lycopene||May reduce risk of prostate cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration (serious eye disease)||Tomatoes and tomato products (juice, sauce and salsa), watermelon, red and pink grapefruit|
|Insoluble fibre||May contribute to maintenance of a healthy digestive tract and reduce the risk of some types of cancer||Wheat bran, corn bran, fruit skins|
|Beta-glucans||May reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease||Oats, oatmeal, oat bran, barley, rye|
|Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA)||May contribute to maintenance of heart health, mental function and vision||Flax seed, flax meal, walnuts|
|Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA)||May reduce risk of heart disease, and may contribute to maintaining mental function and vision||Salmon, tuna, fish oils|
|Anthocyanins||May contribute to maintenance of brain function||Blueberries and other berries, cherries, red grapes|
|Flavanols||May contribute to maintenance of heart health||Tea, cocoa, chocolate, apples, grapes|
|Selenium||Prevents cell damage and may contribute to healthy immune system||Fish, red meat, grains, garlic, liver, eggs|
|Phytoestrogens||May contribute to maintenance of bone health, healthy brain and immune function, and menopausal health||Soybeans and soy-based foods|
|Prebiotics||May improve gastrointestinal health and calcium absorption||Whole grains, onions, some fruits, garlic, leeks, fortified foods and beverages|
|Probiotics||May improve gastrointestinal health and systemic immunity (depending on strain of the beneficial bacteria)||Some yogurts and cultured dairy products|
For optimum health, be sure to enjoy a variety of foods every day. Eating whole foods, as opposed to supplements, may provide bioactive compounds that work together to provide health benefits.