More Functional Foods
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More Functional Foods

I talked in my last post about functional foods. Functional foods, according to the International Food Information Council (IFIC) are "food or dietary components that provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition." In my last post I talked about prebiotics, probiotics, soy protein, and phytoestrogens.

Here are some other examples of functional foods:

What are they?
Naturally occurring plant substances that offer color to foods. Examples include beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene
Where are they? Beta-carotene is known for orange color and can be found in carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in spinach and other leafy greens (kale, collards) as well as corn, eggs, and citrus
Lycopene is found in tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit
What do carotenoids do? They act as antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals, protecting cells from damage. Lutein and zeaxanthin have been linked to contributing to healthy vision and lycopene may assist in prostate health. Beta carotene is a precursor to Vitamin A, which means it can be made into Vitamin A in the body
Did you know? Lycopene is more usable by the body after it has been heated. Ketchup is one of the best sources of lycopene, but tomato sauce and sliced tomatoes are good, too!

For a dish with lots of carotenoids, check out this recipe for sweet potato soup.

Dietary Fiber

What is it? Fiber is indigestible plant substance. Examples include insoluble fiber, beta glucan, soluble fiber, and whole grains. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve, but it does hold on to water. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to become gummy but is still not digested. Fiber creates bulk in the stool because it is not digested.
Where is it? Insoluble fiber is found in wheat and corn bran, whole wheat bread, brown rice, and in the skin of fruits. Beta glucan is found in oats (oat bran, oatmeal, oat flour), barley, and rye. Soluble fiber is found in psyllium husk (Metamucil), peas, legumes (beans), apples, citrus fruit
What does it do? Insoluble fiber may reduce risk of cancer and also helps maintain a healthy digestive tract. Beta glucan may assist in lowering risk of heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol. Soluble fiber also lowers bad cholesterol, lowering heart disease risk as well as cancer risk.

Did you know? All fiber is good and has also been shown to help control blood glucose levels for diabetics (and even non-diabetics).

More examples of functional foods to come!

Photo courtesy of avlxyz
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Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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