Functional foods are foods that have potential added benefits beyond meeting basic nutrition needs.
Functional foods can be fortified or enriched processed foods, like calcium-fortified orange juice or protein-fortified meal bars. They can also be whole foods that have an abundance of health-promoting compounds.
For example, foods like avocado and kale provide the body with essential nutrients to fuel and maintain daily activity, like carbohydrates, protein, and fat. They also contain high amounts of fiber [functions=promotes healthy digestion, feeds gut bacteria, helps clear toxins], vitamin A [functions=promotes eye health, powerful antioxidant, promotes tissue health], and vitamin K [functions=promotes healthy blood coagulation, promotes bone health.]
Think beyond your macros and focus on eating foods everyday that are nutrient-rich. Typically, this includes a wide range of colorful whole [unprocessed] foods. Plants are easy, as most convey some added health benefit. When it comes to animal products, select high-quality proteins like eggs [functional compound=choline for brain health], yogurt [functional compound=probiotics!], and oily fish like salmon [functional compound=anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid.]
Leafy Greens: A broad vegetable category that packs a punch when it comes to functional properties. This category includes spinach, chard, and romaine lettuce as well as cruciferous varieties like arugula, kale, and bok choy. Start your day with at least one serving from this category by adding some spinach to your smoothie or wilting some chard for your omelet. Here’s a team favorite for using chard to charge your morning: Chard Tomato and Zucchini Frittata
Chia Seeds: Chia seeds hold a special place on the map of functional foods – they provide complete protein in addition to omega-3 fatty acid and TONS of fiber. Our favorite way to consume chia seeds is in the form of chia pudding, like this one. If the consistency isn’t your jam [kind of like tapioca pudding], just throw it in the blender to make a smooth and creamy pudding: Strawberry Almond Chia Pudding
Berries: It’s no secret that strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are good for you – most of their fame has been earned for their antioxidant capacity. Berries are packed with free-radical scavenging and bioactive phenolic compounds like anthocyanin, flavonols, and tannins. Frozen, they are an excellent addition to smoothies. Fresh, they make an excellent snack [+ some raw nuts] or a super topping for salads, like our chefs did here: Avocado Strawberry Caprese Salad
Avocado: I don’t think I have ever met anyone who didn’t like guacamole [feel free to introduce yourself if you exist!] Avocados are a well-known source of healthy fats, but they also contain quantum amounts of fiber [1/2 an avocado will get you to 25% of your daily value.] A ripe avocado doesn’t have a strong flavor – it’s more of a texture thing, which lends itself very nicely to incorporating into savory and sweet dishes equally. Just a bit of avocado gives this smoothie and irresistible creamy texture: Detox Green Smoothie
Fermented foods: If you’re not on the kombucha train yet, all aboard! Kombucha, as well as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and kefir are all fermented foods that provide an abundance of living probiotics, important to gut and brain health. See our blog post for more information on benefits of fermented foods: 5 Sources of Natural Probiotics