Functional Foods you should include in your diet.

Functional Foods I Eat Regularly Without Fail!

All of these foods are functional, which I recommend instead of supplements as they are abundant in nutrients.  Functional foods are like superfoods that are extremely high in at least one particular vitamin or mineral.  Therefore, they have a medicinal effect with the ability to replace supplements.  They have positive effects on health & wellbeing, beyond basic nutrition.  Functional foods promote optimal health, while reducing disease risk.

Without exception, I include these functional foods in my diet regularly…

 

  1. Fermented food

My favourite is pineapple or lime flavoured Coconut Kefir from the Coconut Kefir Company.

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  1. Brazil nuts

Eating 2-3 Brazil nuts daily is a delicious & convenient way to get your dose of selenium.  This is important for New Zealanders because our soils are deficient in trace minerals, including selenium.  Selenium is an antioxidant, which works in conjunction with vitamin E (abundant in nuts, seeds & oils) to reduce the risk of skin cancer & prevent sunburn by preventing the formation of free radicals.  Selenium is required for healthy thyroid function, controlling our metabolic rate, energy levels & body temperature.  Research shows that it may also reduce inflammation & cancer.  It’s ironic that NZ farm animals are supplemented with selenium to prevent disease, but humans give little thought to their selenium intake!  I eat 2-3 activated Brazil nuts daily as a snack.

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  1. Seaweed

Kelp is the seaweed highest in iodine which is vital for New Zealanders as it is lacking in our soils.  Iodine is the most important mineral for the thyroid gland, which controls our metabolic rate, energy levels & body temperature.  0.25g of kelp provides 590% of your daily iodine, so you only need a light sprinkle daily.  It can be so easily added to cooking & smoothies, so there are no excuses to not get your dose of iodine!

 

My favourites are Pacific Harvest kelp, karengo & wakame.  I have a pinch of kelp daily, & garnish savoury dishes with karengo & wakame.  Karengo & wakame are delicious sprinkled on savoury dishes for an umami flavour.  I also loves nori sheets, which are traditionally used for rolling sushi.  Substitute nori for ordinary wraps.  Be creative with different combinations of meat, fish, eggs & vegetables.  Try spreading with hummus, pesto or dip before adding toppings.  Let your imagination run wild!

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  1. Sprouted/activated foods

Sprouting/activating (beginning of sprouting process) raw grains, legumes, nuts & seeds greatly increases their enzyme potential.  Additionally, it releases calcium, magnesium, iron & zinc from phytic acid.  This process greatly increases nutrient bioavailability, by enabling us to absorb these important minerals.  Phytase is an enzyme that neutralises phytic acid.  It co-exists naturally in plants containing phytic acid.  Soaking grains, legumes, nuts & seeds in an acid (e.g. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice) & a pinch of salt, kick-starts the activating/sprouting process.  Plant foods can be cooked after they have been sprouted/activated, but this reduces phytase again.  However, it is better to sprout/activate before cooking, rather than not sprout/activate before cooking.  My favourites are sprouted buckwheat cereal, sprouted rice, sprouted chickpeas, & all activated nuts/seeds.

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  1. Liver

Organ meats are the superfoods of the animal kingdom.  Unfortunately, the traditional nose to tail philosophy of eating animals has been lost through generations.  Nowadays, we tend to only eat muscle meat, whereas, some traditional cultures only ate organs because they were well aware of the benefits.  The liver stores vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, folic acid & minerals like iron & copper.  Therefore, we are getting a dose of these nutrients when we eat liver.  Organic meat & organs are always preferable.  Especially because the liver is the detoxing organ, therefore, stores toxins.  My favourite is chicken liver.  I eat it once weekly.  When I began eating liver I couldn’t stand the taste, so had to hide it in mince, diced & stir fried meats.  Now I love eating it by itself!

Bostocks Organic Chicken - Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, April 2015. Photo by John Cowpland / alphapix

 

Olivia Kennedy ~ Wellpark College Graduate,Naturopath, Nutritionist & Herbalist