Do you want your food to do more than just curb your hunger? Functional foods go beyond simply satisfying a craving — they are ingredients that help you look and feel your best every day. These are foods that could impact aspects of your health beyond just basic nutrition, improving your overall health and reducing the risk of disease.
More than ever, people are interested in learning about functional foods and how to incorporate them into their regular diet. Let’s get to know five of the most popular functional foods, the health benefits they offer, and how you can get them into your belly.
Friendly reminder: We’re not doctors, and neither is the internet! We’re here to gather up helpful tips to pique your interest and start a conversation. Before using functional foods for medicinal purposes, talk it over with your doc.
Turmeric is one of the most popular functional foods and likewise, one of the most popular cooking spices in the world, derived from a turmeric plant, a member of the ginger plant family. You might know turmeric as the spice that gives curry its yellow color, but it has long been used in East India and the Middle East for healing purposes. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is scientifically proven to have many health benefits: it is an anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, digestive aid, arthritis treatment, and it’s even used in chemotherapy.
The simplest way to add turmeric into your diet is as a spice, adding it to roasted vegetables, egg-based dishes, on rice, and in soups. You can also make incredible raw juices, smoothies, and tea using turmeric. This recipe makes a delicious turmeric ginger juice, or try this turmeric tea recipe as an immune system boost in the winter months.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Maybe you’ve seen the listicles popping up all around the internet that claim 100 different uses for apple cider vinegar, from salad dressing to a hair treatment. Apple cider vinegar is a (very sour!) vinegar made from crushed apples, fermenting the liquid into a natural vinegar. Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, potassium, magnesium, probiotics, and enzymes — all of which are linked to promoting good health.
In fact, the health benefits linked to apple cider vinegar are too many to list: weight loss, controlling diabetes and high blood sugar, acid reflux, alleviating the common cold, and aiding heart problems. While the scientific research around these claims aren’t concrete, doctors are largely on board with using apple cider vinegar as one part of a comprehensive approach to good health.
When working apple cider vinegar into your diet, some opt for taking a shot of the good stuff daily, others drink one tablespoon mixed with a glass of water. If you can’t stomach the taste on its own, try making an apple cider vinegar salad dressing. Another great option is to make an apple cider vinegar drink, using honey and lemon juice to balance out that sour taste.
3. Manuka Honey
Often called the miraculous honey, manuka honey is popping up in natural health food stores around the country. Manuka honey is made from the nectar of the manuka tree, which grows in Australia and New Zealand. All the buzz around manuka honey is because it contains antimicrobial, antibacterial properties in much higher concentrations than most honey. This means that manuka honey can be used for a variety of medicinal purposes, like as a topical treatment for wounds and burns or to reduce inflammation in your system. You’ll also see manuka honey used as a nutritional supplement, to relieve digestive problems like stomach aches and gas, and to boost energy.
Finding ways to make manuka honey part of your diet is easy — just use it as you use your store bought honey. Since manuka honey comes with a high price tag, you can opt for taking a tablespoon when you experience symptoms or as a daily supplement. To use manuka honey on wounds and burns, spread it on a gauze or bandage, or directly onto the wound. Remember, talk this over with a doctor before getting started.
4. Cauliflower Rice
Move over brown rice, there’s a new, healthier alternative in town. Cauliflower rice is basically exactly what it sounds like — riced cauliflower that results in a light, fluffy rice base for your favorite recipes. Cauliflower rice is good for you because cauliflower is one of the healthiest foods in the world, rich in anti-inflammatory components and antioxidants. Swapping out your standard white or brown rice for a cauliflower rice base allows you to not only cut calories, but also increase your intake of cauliflower’s nutrient-rich profile. That’s what the functional food movement is all about.
There are two easy ways to make cauliflower rice. You could simply use a box grater (the same you use to grate cheese) and grate the florets into rice-sized bits. If you have a food processor, use the grater blade to rice your cauliflower. Then, you’ll want to use paper towel, a dish towel, or a cheese cloth to press the rice and remove excess moisture. Then, you’re ready to prepare your rice. Simply toss it in a pan and sauté with a little oil. Looking for recipe inspiration? The internet is crazy for cauliflower rice recipes — here are just 25 to get you started.
5. Bone Broth
Bone broth is a new health trend that has been hailed as a magic elixir for everything from healthy nails to healing leaky gut syndrome. Here’s the deal: bone broth is a drink (yes, you read that right) or a stock made from roasting and simmering animal bones with vegetables for 8 – 72 hours, usually in a crockpot. The idea is that the nutrients and vitamins from the animal bones make for a powerful boost to your immune system, providing healing properties and improving your overall health. The science to support these claims isn’t all there, but experts agree that bone broth is a solid source of nutrition, even if its supporters sometimes overhype the benefits.
There are many different ways to make bone broth, most of which will require the stock to simmer for at least an afternoon. Nourished Kitchen shares four different ways to prepare and consume bone broth, while Wellness Mama has a simple bone broth recipe for chefs short on time, requiring just 10 minutes of prep.
Which functional foods have you introduced into your diet? Share your tips and recipes with us in the comments below!