Even if you eat a healthy diet and cut back on processed food, there’s always room for improvement.
That’s where functional whole foods come into play.
Functional foods are foods that offer more than basic nutrition.
They have "super food" powers that support optimum health function and they're practical foods that require little to no preparation, making them ultra easy to include in your diet at any time.
Not only that, they're low in calories, easy to digest and satisfy hunger cravings easily due to their nutrient density and they are always available year round!
Most of these foods also help protect against common diseases like high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems and even cancer.
Here we reveal six of our favourite functional foods that you should definitely embrace for more energy and better health as part of your everyday lifestyle.
Probably nature's most perfect and versatile food, Avocados are actually a "fruit" because they have a seed inside (which all fruits have).
For many years, Avocados were blasted in the media as being "fattening" or being "high in cholesterol", but nothing could be further from the truth.
Not only are they incredibly delicious and hunger-curbing, Avocados contain good fats that protect the nerves, aid digestion and support healthy immunity. In fact, they're as close as you'll get to nature's most perfect food.
Avocados make the list of the top ten superfoods, for good reason: raising good (HDL) blood cholesterol, stabilising blood sugar and providing glutathione to cleanse the liver are only some of the many health benefits of this succulent green fruit.
Avocados also offer a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps to regulate blood pressure. In fact, the avocado actually supplies sixty percent more potassium than the banana.
You can help prevent circulatory diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke simply by getting enough potassium in your diet. Plus, one cup of avocado has an incredible amount of the water-soluble B-vitamin folate, a nutrient that helps protect and maintain new cells and is important for the health of your heart.
The list doesn’t end there: avocados also contain glutathione, which is known for its ability to strengthen the immune system and remove cancers. Avocados also contain a significant amount of a cholesterol-lowering phytosterol called beta-sitosterol.
Your skin can also benefit from a regular serving of guacamole. Natural oils in avocados perk up a poor complexion, make brittle nails strong again, stimulate hair growth, and improve dry skin.
Tip: Ripe avocados should be soft enough to “give way” to gentle pressure. If you can’t find a ripe avocado in the store, choose a heavy, unblemished one and let it ripen in a paper bag for a few days at room temperature.
Add them to salads, eat them straight up with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and sea salt, or mash them up and make a dip or guacamole. The choice is yours!!
You've heard the term, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away".
Well Bananas are pretty much in the same boat.
The perfect breakfast food, exercise fuel, or in-between meal wholesome snack, Bananas are one of the most versatile fruits you can get your hands on!
They come in several varieties, are native to most countries, and they're probably the most affordable fruit in your grocery store. Not to mention they come in a protective package that wards off pesticides and herbicides.
Bananas have a variety of important health benefits.
They’re great for fighting heart disease, lowering blood pressure, maintaining strong bones, stopping diarrhoea, soothing acid reflux and heartburn, protecting against stomach ulcers, preventing anaemia, reducing the risk of strokes, and more.
Bananas are also a good mood food: research shows that the serotonin and norepinephrine in bananas may naturally help sufferers overcome depression.
Bananas are one of the best fruits to eat when attempting to lose weight because they are full of nutrients that suppress the appetite whilst boosting your energy and vitality.
Bananas are also low in calories and fat, plus they have a high water content and are rich in potassium.
A diet high in potassium foods can help reduce water weight. Convenience and the nutritional value of bananas make them a good post-exercise snack, and the potassium content helps build muscle tissue.
Tip: Since they ripen on their own, you can buy your bananas ready to eat or green ahead of time. Just keep them on the counter for a few days until they are a happy shade of yellow. Peel, chop and freeze fresh ripe banana slices in a container or bag to add to smoothies whenever you're on the go.
3. Raw Nuts (Macadamias, Almonds & Brazil Nuts)
Raw nuts are a nutritional powerhouse gift from mother earth that should always be close at hand - at home, at work, before and after exercise and when you're on the go!
A handful of raw organic nuts is one of the easiest ways to get your daily fix of protein and healthy fats that support muscle growth, balance blood sugar and protect the nerves.
They also instantly curb hunger and help you to avoid nasty cravings and harmful sugary or processed foods because they keep you satiated.
Raw nuts are rich in Vitamin E vital for skin health and minerals like magnesium for regulating blood and nerve function, and selenium for protection of the reproductive organs and thyroid.
Eat them just as they are, sprinkle them on organic coconut yogurt or soak them overnight to prepare a wholesome nut milk to add to your cereal or smoothies.
Blueberries are known as a superfood, and not just because they’re delicious. They are mother nature's "vaccines", loaded with protector/inhibitor compounds to support a robust immune system.
In fact, Blueberries rank number one in nutrient activity when compared to 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables.
They also help prevent memory loss as you age, they lower your risk factor for some cancers, they help prevent urinary tract infections, they contain chemicals that curb diarrhoea, they have viral activity and are high in natural aspirin.
But the list doesn’t end there: blueberries improve vision, keep arteries clear, protect against disease, reverse age-related physical and mental decline, and they promote weight control.
Oats are another powerhouse whole food that you should be including in your diet for optimal health. Oats provide protein and key minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, copper and zinc and 8,500 other nutrients.
Eating a healthy portion of oats every day can help you lower your cholesterol, manage diabetes, prevent cancer and cure constipation. The best way to eat oats is either to prepare a porridge and add toasted nuts, dried fruit and/or raw honey. Or to lightly toast them in the oven and prepare your own muesli. If you're crafty in the kitchen, oats can be used to prepare wholesome cookies and crumbles.
Oat bran is the outer husk of the oat grain that contains tons of beta-glucan. Studies show that oats have cut total cholesterol by as much as 26 percent and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol by 24 percent.
Oats can also help manage diabetes: the viscosity of the beta-glucan in oats bogs down your food as it travels through your stomach and small intestine. This process not only helps lower cholesterol but, it also slows absorption of carbohydrates. Your blood doesn’t get overwhelmed with glucose all at once, so you don’t have an instant and urgent demand for insulin.
In many studies, eating whole grains such as oats has been linked to protection against atherosclerosis, diabetes, insulin resistance, ischemic, obesity, premature death and stroke, so make sure you include a serving of oats almost every day, if not more.
Lemons are nature's most potent cleansing food and are a functional whole food staple.
Loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants, the benefits of lemons range from reducing the risk of kidney stones to killing off cancer cells.
Plus, the potential uses for lemons extend way beyond the kitchen. Lemons can be used for just about everything from bench sprays, to adding shine to hair and improving skin blemishes.
Add the juice of one whole lemon to a large glass of water first thing in the morning and drink before you exercise or eat. This will add acetic acid into your gut which will stimulate digestion. Additionally use fresh lemon juice to prepare salad dressings with olive oil and herbs. You can also add a squeeze of lemon to a mug of warm water as a refreshment before bed time.
The Main Take Away
Functional foods deliver a wide range of energy and health benefits, they're versatile and readily available year round.
In fact, you could go days and even weeks eating little more than these foods and get everything you need in terms of high quality nutrition!
Whatever you do, just be sure to in include more of these amazing foods on your diet on a regular basis.
When you do this, you'll find that you'll be more nourished, less hungry, you'll have more energy and you'll be doing your best to help repel a wide range of everyday ailments and long term diseases.
Learn more in our blog Top 7 Energy-Boosting ‘Super Foods’.
Tolman Self Care.