The Top 5 Functional Foods

What we eat should be both enjoyable and sustain, or better yet, build our health.

Smitty Smith


Whether you spend more time binging the latest Netflix series or accomplishing physically demanding workouts, what we eat and drink has a major influence on our health and wellness.

Regardless of where you lay on this spectrum, I believe each of us would appreciate some extra credit that requires little to no effort to see added health benefits.


If that sounds good to you, then consider increasing the functional foods and fluids.


*** From the dude (or dude’ ette) in the back, “Hey Smitty! You just made those titles up! Furthermore! All food is, by definition, functional because its function is to keep us alive! So, what do you say to that?!?!?”


After taking a small sip of water, “Thanks dude(ette) and your right, all food has the function to provide necessary energy in the form of chemical bonds in order complete physiological processes to meet our basal metabolic rate and thereby ensuring life goes on. So in that sense, you are correct. What I am referring to are foods, that as the Mayo Clinic states, “… foods that have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition that promote optimal health and help reduce the risk of disease.”


Since eating and drinking are things you have to do, it makes sense to eat foods that give you the most bang for your buck.


Here are the five most notable functional foods and fluids you can start adding to your diet today to provide that bang for your buck and time:


1. Green, Black, & Oolong Teas
2. Fermented Food
3. Seasonal berries
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
5. Turmeric


1. Green, Black, & Oolong Tea
Rather than reaching for that second coffee, try having a cup of tea instead! Each of these teas contains many polyphenols like EGCG, a catechin containing antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and provide other benefits.


Green tea, black tea, and oolong tea are all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. They contain an assortment of compounds, the most significant components of which are polyphenols. The differences between green, black, and oolong tea lie in the fermentation process (more on that in a moment).


These teas can give you a mental boost with the potent combination of theanine and a low amount of caffeine. This helps you stay alert and focused without getting the jitters and an eventual crash. Try brewing a cup of tea when you need a pick-me-up.


2. Fermented Foods
Before your hipster friend started drinking kombucha, as they put it “way” before you ever heard of it, people and cultures from around the world have used fermentation processes to extend the life of food and make others more palatable. In doing so, they created functional foods and fluids that can help build your immune system and improve the microbiome in the intestinal tract.


Kombucha is a tea (clears throat.. see #1) that uses fermentation to promote the growth of good bacteria. These bacteria produce chemicals that include antioxidants. Antioxidants counter the effects of free radicals, which experts believe play a role in a wide variety of illnesses, including cancer and chronic inflammation.


3. Seasonal Berries
Seasonal berries are powerhouse fruits that make for a great snack at any time. They are low glycemic, so they won’t have a significant impact on blood sugar. They have numerous health benefits, as well. Blueberries get their vibrant dark blue color from their abundance of anthocyanin, which explains their high antioxidant content. Anthocyanins reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and cancer.


Blackberries are high in vitamin C and fiber. Just one cup of blackberries provides 30 mg of vitamin C. That’s half your daily recommended value and integral to collagen formation in bones, connective tissue, and blood vessels.


4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is often thought to be an old wives’ tale, a homegrown remedy that will fix any ailment. It may not be a cure-all, but Apple cider vinegar is undoubtedly a functional food you can benefit from using. Produced through fermentation (clears throat again… see #2), a combination of yeast and beneficial bacteria called the “mother” float in the beverage containing B-vitamins, probiotics, and polyphenols.


Research has also found that taking 20 grams of apple cider vinegar significantly lowered post-meal blood glucose levels. If you need a little help with digestion, try adding some apple cider vinegar to a glass of water or mix it with olive oil for a tangy salad dressing.


5. Turmeric
Turmeric has been a staple in Indian cooking for thousands of years. It contains a compound called curcumin, which has been shown to have numerous health benefits. Curcumin is a potent anti-Inflammatory, that may also help with chronic disease, depression, and possesses anti-carcinogenic properties. It has also been shown to boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a type of growth hormone that functions in your brain. Don’t be afraid to get your curry on!


There you have it, the top 5 functional foods you should add to your diet today!


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