Below is a list of the top 10 healthful functional foods. Treat yourself to at least one food from the list below each day, and rotate your choices through the categories for optimal nutrition and healthy eating all year long.
1. Omega-3 enriched eggs. Functional Components: Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA); The fatty acid profile of the egg yolks is altered by changing the feed the hens receive. Hens receive feed rich in omega-3s, typically from flax seed, fish oil or sea algae. The subsequent eggs the hens lay, contain increased amounts of omega-3s, and decreased amounts of saturated fats. What they do: May lower triglycerides, cholesterol, and reduce the risk for coronary heart disease. Foods: Whole eggs in the carton, labeled “DHA/Omega-3-enriched”. Depending on the brand, omega-3 eggs can contain up to 350 mg omega-3s per egg, compared with 60 mg in a regular egg. 2. Oats. Functional Components: ß-glucan and phytochemicals called saponins. What they do: Reduce total and LDL cholesterol, may help lower blood pressure. Foods: Whole oats, oatmeal, low fat granola, whole-oat bread, other whole-oat products. 3. Fatty fish.
Functional Components: Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA). What they do: Reduce triglycerides, reduce coronary heart disease. Foods: Salmon, Tuna, Striped Bass, Halibut, Sardines, Trout, Flounder. 4. Fortified margarine. Functional Components: Plant Sterol and stanol esters. What they do: Reduce total and LDL cholesterol for those persons with elevated cholesterol. Foods: Fortified margarines such as Benecol, Take Control, and SmartBalance. Replace your normal serving of margarine or butter with fortified margarines. 5. Soy- Functional Components: Phytochemicals such as isoflavones and genistein, and soy protein. What they do: May reduce total and LDL cholesterol. Foods: Edamame, tofu, tempeh, miso, soynuts. 6. Tomatoes and tomato products. Functional Component: The phytochemical lycopene. What they do: The strongest evidence exists for lycopene’s role in the reduction of prostate cancer, but it also may reduce the risk of certain other cancers, and heart disease. Foods: Whole fresh or canned tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato soup (low-salt), salsa, gazpacho. 7. Probiotics. Functional Components: “Good for you” bacteria, typically lactobacillus. What they do: Support gastrointestinal (GI) health, may boost immunity. Foods: Yogurts supplemented with probiotics (look for a variety of live active cultures), fermented vegetables, and fermented soy products (i.e. tempeh). 8. Nuts.
Functional Components: Monounsaturated fatty acids (healthy fats), vitamin E (antioxidant). What they do: May reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Foods: Walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and brazil nuts. 9. Grape Juice or Red Wine. Functional Component: Resveratrol. What they do: Exhibit heart-healthy effects. Foods: 100% juice grape juice or grape juice mixtures (i.e. Grape-Apple 100% juice mixtures); any variety of red wine.
Leafy Greens. Functional Components: Phytochemicals such as carotenoids, sulforaphanes, apigenin, and lutein/zeaxanthin. What they do: Carotenoids block carcinogens from entering cells (cancer protective), sulforaphanes and apigenin provide heart protection, lutein reduces blindness in the elderly, and zeaxanthin enhances immune function. Foods: Spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, broccoli rabe, broccoli sprouts, arugula and other leafy greens.