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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Functional Foods Part 3

This is the third post on functional foods. My first post included info on prebiotics and probiotics, phytoestrogens, and soy protein. The second post was about carotenoids and fiber.

Today I am going to talk about more compounds that are naturally occurring plant substances that may have additional benefits to our health.


What are they?
A class of compounds including anthocyanins, flavanols, flavonones, flavonols, and proanthocyanidins
Where are they and what do they do?
Anthocyanins are found in berries, cherries and red grapes and help keep cells healthy by boosting antioxidant defense and may help brain function
Flavanols are found in tea, cocoa, chocolate, apples, and grapes and may help heart health
Flavonones are found in citrus foods and help neutralize free radicals which damage cells and help keep cells healthy by boosting antioxidant defense
Flavonols are found in onions, apples, tea, and broccoli and also help neutralize free radicals, keeping cells healthy
Proanthocyanidins are found in cranberries, cocoa, apples, strawberries, grapes, peanuts, and cinnamon. They may help urinary tract health as well as heart health.

Phenolic Acids
What are they? They are caffeic and ferulic acid
Where are they found? Apples, pears, citrus, vegetables, coffee
What do they do? They help keep cells healthy by boosting antioxidant defense and may help with healthy vision and heart health

What are they?
A compound called sulforaphane
Where are they found? Cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts, cabbage, kale, horseradish
What do they do? Help to detoxify certain compounds, help keep cells healthy by boosting antioxidant defense

What are they? Diallyl sulfide, allyl methyl trisulfide, diethioltiones
Where are they found? Garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, cruciferous vegetables
What do they do? Help to detoxify certain compounds, may help with immune function and heart health

As you can see, many of these compounds sound really intimidating and I can't even pronounce half of these words! Don’t worry about remembering their names, just look to see where they are found and what they can possibly do for us.

The amazing thing about food, and especially these “functional foods” is that there is so much more going on than just the carbs, proteins, fat, vitamins, and minerals that are in the foods we eat. Foods, especially fruits, vegetables, whole grains, soybeans, cocoa, coffee, and tea, have so much MORE to offer! They may even save your life!

Photo courtesy of istockphoto

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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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