Functional foods are foods that likely have a beneficial effect on our health beyond basic nutrition. Nature provides us with many functional foods, and not just in the summer! Plenty of fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds that are easy to snag in late autumn and throughout the winter are functional foods.
By learning about the specific benefits of certain functional whole foods, you’ll be better able to make choices that improve and maintain your overall health (see “Seasonal superstars below”). When you’re ready to head into the kitchen, let these recipes serve as creative inspiration as you cook up some of the best ingredients this season has to offer.
|Functional food||Health benefits|
|apple||Along with being good for our heart and gut health, apples contain a variety of beneficial phytochemicals.|
|cauliflower||Cauliflower is one of the best plant-based sources of an essential nutrient called choline. Choline is important for many body processes, including supporting a healthy nervous system, metabolism, and DNA synthesis.|
|walnuts||Walnuts are a wonderful plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3s have been shown to have positive effects on cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and brain function.|
|mushrooms||A good source of vitamin D, mushrooms also contain a decent amount of selenium, a mineral that works as an antioxidant in the body.|
|cabbage||Belonging to the Brassica genus of vegetables, cabbage contains antioxidants that can help lower the risk of certain diseases and reduce inflammation.|
|pumpkin||Pumpkin’s orange color is due to its carotenoid content. One of these carotenoids, beta carotene, is found in high amounts in pumpkins and is converted into vitamin A in our bodies. Vitamin A is an important antioxidant linked to a lower risk of certain cancers.|
|Pumpkin seeds||Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of magnesium, which is important in muscle and nerve function, blood sugar regulation, and heart and bone health.|
|cranberries||Cranberries are a powerful source of antioxidants that assist in everything from reducing inflammation to improving blood pressure and boosting immunity.|