Fundamentals of Food
Functional foods, or foods that contain significant amounts of healthful, beneficial ingredients, are increasingly popular among consumers. The functional food market is estimated to reach $62 billion by 2024, up from $29 billion in 2014. As consumers become more health conscious, they are more selective about the foods they choose to eat and are drawn to items that can support overall health and wellness. We’ve outlined some of the most common components of functional foods that provide the body with a range of health benefits to ensure a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.
Protein prevents chronic diseases and strengthens bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. It contains 20 different amino acids – nine of which must come from food sources, as the body cannot produce them. Animal protein such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy are all considered to be complete sources of protein; however, with concern towards sustainability, plant-based protein is seen as a better-for-you functional ingredient. Plant proteins such as lentils, quinoa, nuts, beans, tofu and sunflower, sesame, chia, hemp, flax, and pumpkin seeds offer consumers a clean food source that also supplies a large amount of vitamins, fiber and minerals.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Properties in prebiotics and probiotics boost the immune system, alleviate digestive issues, and help maintain the “good” bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics are the food source for probiotics and cannot be digested by the body. Foods that contain prebiotics include whole grains, onions, garlic, honey, artichokes, asparagus and legumes. You can find probiotics in foods like kefir, cottage cheese, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha and Greek yogurt.
The body needs a substantial amount of macro minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride. These minerals aid in maintaining healthy nerve, memory and muscle function; sustaining a steady heartbeat; supporting a robust immune system; and preserving strong bones. Trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts than macro minerals; these include iron, copper, iodine, zinc, fluoride and chromium. Trace minerals play a crucial role in cell growth and breaking down carbohydrates.
The word “fat” is often associated with negative connotations; however, some fatty acids can be beneficial to the body. Fatty acids contain the “good fats” that the body cannot produce on its own and they help the body maintain cholesterol levels and benefit heart health. Omega-3 and omega-6 are the most well known fatty acids and are most commonly found in salmon, chia seeds, walnuts and soybeans. You can also find fatty acids in avocado and other unsaturated oil sources such as olive oil, sesame oil, and nut oil.
Incorporate these components into your diet to experience their wealth of health benefits. Speak with your healthcare provider to discuss a dietary plan specific to your needs.