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In recent years, functional foods have gained in interest and popularity within health circles.

The question to be answered is “What are functional foods?”

Functional foods are a variety of foods and ingredients that have beneficial health effects that extend beyond their simple nutritional value. They promote optimal health and help reduce the risk of disease.

To effectively answer this question, remember that most natural foods are functional as they deliver physiological benefits including protein for muscle repair, carbohydrates for energy, and vitamins and minerals for cell function.

Essentially, functional foods are foods that include additional health benefits beyond basic nutrition and are designed to improve health.

Also known as nutraceuticals, nutrient dense functional foods are highly nutritious and associated with a number of powerful health benefits.

Examples of Functional Foods

Examples of these nutrient dense functional foods are:

  1. Cold Water Fish – Salmon and Sardines
  •         Protein packed and high in Omega-3 fatty acids
  1. Nuts
  •          Help you feel full and may promote heart health
  •          Provide a good source for magnesium, important in managing blood pressure
  1. Whole grains

Barley

  •    High in dietary fiber
  •    May help lower cholesterol and assist with blood sugar control
  1. Beans
  •    Provide dietary fiber, protein, potassium folate

5. Berries

  •    Low in calories
  •   Their anthocyanin pigments, which give them color, offer health promoting benefits.

Functional foods are foods that may:

  1. Prevent nutrient deficiencies – nutrient dense functional foods are typically high in important nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber.
  2. They may protect against disease – many are especially rich in antioxidants. These molecules help neutralize harmful compounds known as free radicals, helping prevent cell damage and certain chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Functional foods can be used to boost your intake of important nutrients, fill in any gaps in your diet, and support overall health. So, when planning your diet, consider eating as many functional foods as possible to help give your body all the nutrition it needs to stay as healthy as possible.

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