We all know that the food we eat is a fundamental to the functioning of our body, providing us with basic nutrition like vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fat and protein. It’s why many of us consciously choose to fuel our precious system with foods that are naturally nutrient dense and help to contribute to good health and vitality.
What if there were some foods that were able to provide us with even more benefits than just simple nutrition?
Let us introduce you to ‘functional foods’.
In the 1980’s, the Japanese Government developed this special category of foods, describing them as foods that possessed specific health benefits that extended beyond their nutritional value.
While many are still highly nutritious, they also contain other natural bioactive compounds that have been shown exert beneficial effects to the system. Many functional foods have demonstrated the ability to help modulate specific physiological functions, contributing to improved health outcomes for those with chronic disease.
Functional foods may help to support heart health, energy, metabolic health, nervous system function and gastrointestinal health.
These foods aren’t a dietary supplement, or medication, but are a whole food source of powerful natural active ingredients that are consumed alongside a well-balanced diet.
Below we share our 5 favourite functional foods that you likely already have in your pantry at home.
Cacao is the fruit found within the Theobroma cacao tree that is grown and cultivated throughout South American countries. Both cocoa and cacao powder’s come from the cacao bean, but are processed in different ways which result in different nutritional and health containing ingredients.
Raw cacao powder is minimally processed, whereas cocoa powder is made from roasting at high temperatures and typically altered with other chemical substances. As raw cacao is low-roasted, many of the nutritional and bioactive compounds are retained from the cacao seed.
Cacao powder contains a high level of flavanols or polyphenols and are potent antioxidant bioactive compounds that are associated with various beneficial health effects. It is the presence of these well-studied antioxidants (like epicatechin and catechin) that give cacao its functional food status as they contribute to the positive effects seen on cardiovascular, immune and metabolic system functioning.
Curcuma longa A.K.A Turmeric, is well known for its various protective effects when the body is in a compromised state of health. The key active compounds responsible for exerting these beneficial actions are a group of phenolic compounds called curcuminoids and are responsible for giving Turmeric its characteristic rich orange/golden colour.
Curcumin is the most bioactive of the curcuminoids and has been shown to have protective physiological effects within the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, metabolic and immune systems.
Many studies have investigated the mechanisms of action in which curcumin exerts is effects within the body, and has been shown to support vascular function, demonstrate potent antioxidant activity and supporting the function of metabolic processes and healthy blood sugar levels.
Green Trading’s Organic Curcumin Extract is made from 100% Organic Turmeric Root, powdered, and then encapsulated without the addition of binders or fillers. The capsules are vegetarian and vegan friendly.
This humble breakfast cereal is an important source of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. One particular component of dietary fiber that has drawn the attention of health practitioners and researchers is the soluble fiber beta-glucan.
Oat beta-glucan is a polysaccharide that comes from the cell wall of the oat kernel. It is an important functional component of oats, after having demonstrated cholesterol lowering and anti-diabetic effects.
Colloidal oatmeal is a popular treatment for those with atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. The compounds responsible for the anti-inflammatory actions to skin are called avenanthramides. These phenolic actives are said to help reduce the activity of pro-inflammatory cytokines and histamines that are often driving the redness, irritation, and itchy sensations of many dermatological conditions.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a traditional natural health aid that has been used for centuries. ACV is made by fermenting apples, using yeasts and sugars within the fruits to be turned into an alcohol. This alcohol is then further fermented by a special bacterium to create acetic acid. Acetic acid is the key active constituent that gives vinegar is functional food status.
Acetic acid has significant beneficial effects on our blood sugar metabolism. Just a tablespoon of vinegar before meals can help to reduce blood sugar spikes by up to 30%. It is this action that has gained ACV attention, as it can help with the control of overall body weight and visceral fat accumulation.
ACV that contains the ‘mother’ is also a natural source of probiotics, that have been retained from the fermentation process. Probiotics as we know are supportive to our microbiome, digestive and immune systems.
- Coconut oil
Coconut oil is a mainstream edible oil that is extracted from the kernel of mature coconuts. There are two main types of coconut oil based on methods used during the extraction process. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (EVCO) is the preferred option when you are wanting maximum nutritional and health promoting active ingredients, as extra virgin extraction methods are mechanical and don’t use heat or chemical refining.
Green Trading’s Extra Virgin Organic Coconut oil is raw and cold-pressed to ensure vital nutrients and fatty acids are retained. Our Organic Coconut Oil is made from fresh coconut meat, not dry copra, giving it a delicious, natural, coco-nutty scent and flavour.
EVCO is a rich source of medium chain fatty acids, vitamin E and polyphenols. Particularly high in EVCO is a fatty acid called lauric acid. Lauric acid has demonstrated antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory actions when taken internally and used externally. Lauric acid is particularly helpful when there is an overgrowth of yeast and fungi in the system. Capric acid is another antimicrobial fatty acid present in EVCO.
When ingested, the medium chain fatty acids (MCT’s) of ECVO are rapidly absorbed and can be utilised quickly as a source of energy, without the burden of carbohydrates and sugars impose on blood sugar levels. For this reason, MCT’s have gained popularity in the world of exercise, ketogenic diets and also utilised as a great energy source for brain and cognitive function.