If you eat without thinking about what you’re eating, you’re missing out on an unsurpassed chance to improve your well-being. Functional foods are just that: foods that can help your body function at its best. If you’re not eating these, you’re starving your body of the nutrients it needs to be healthy.
We eat for many reasons: We’re hungry, we desire a certain food or we want to cheer ourselves up. But we don’t often think about eating therapeutically. Despite truisms like “you are what you eat,” many people have a disconnect between what they eat and how that food might be affecting their bodies. The heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity epidemics all testify to that disconnect.
Scientists have also been slow to embrace the relationship between food and health, but that is changing. An article in Pharmacognosy Review highlights the new discipline of Functional Food Science: the study of foods that have a positive influence on our bodies.
In the article, researchers from the Department of Pharmacology at the Shri Ram Institute of Technology in India look at the many biological advantages of mushrooms. Specifically, they note how medicinal mushrooms, which have been used for thousands of years, can modulate the immune system, neutralize oxidizing molecules and even fight cancer.
The paper cites multiple examples of mushrooms’ medicinal properties. For example, Ganoderma lucidum offers an excellent source of potent antioxidants. Lentinus edodes has been shown to exhibit both antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties. Grifola frondosa has also shown antitumor activity. Biomedical research is confirming what many cultures have known for thousands of years: Medicinal mushrooms do the body good.
A Health Resource
The paper concludes that medicinal mushrooms are a relatively untapped health resource. They’re easy to grow, contain many beneficial compounds and are easily metabolized.
For those seeking to incorporate more functional foods into their diet, specific formulas containing a variety of mushroom species offer an excellent way to supplement the diet. Combining medicinal mushrooms into a synergistic formula can work to maximize mushrooms’ natural immune-enhancing qualities and provide long-term immune system support.
In addition to the Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi), Lentinus edodes and Grifola frondosa varieties noted in the study, a number of other scientifically researched mushrooms have long been known for their medicinal qualities. Hericium erinaceus, also known as Lion’s Mane or Monkey’s Head, supports good digestion. Cordyceps sinensis (caterpillar mushroom) supports internal organs like the liver and kidneys. Tremella fuciformis supports healthy blood sugar. Ganoderma lucidum also protects against the damaging effects of radiation.
Medicinal mushrooms may top the list of powerful therapeutic foods, but they are certainly not alone. Other top-functioning super foods include:
Cruciferous vegetables, such as bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, are excellent for your cells and for overall health. In addition to an abundance of diverse phytonutrients and antioxidants, these vegetables contain a compound called brassinin that helps support healthy cell growth. They also contain the precursors of the active compound DIM (diindolylmethane). Studies have shown that DIM supports healthy hormonal balance in part by promoting the excretion of harmful xenoestrogens, which are “bad estrogens” we encounter through toxins and pollution.
A number of dark-colored berries, including acai, blackberry, blueberry, black raspberry and others, have been well researched for their powerful health-promoting properties. They are high in antioxidants and other phytonutrient compounds shown to prevent abnormal cell growth, support immunity and reduce inflammation, among other important benefits.
Yogurt, sauerkraut and other fermented or cultured foods have been a traditional staple in many areas of the world for millennia. These foods offer an important source of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that work to fight off harmful pathogens in the intestines and other areas of the body. Beneficial bacterial such as those in the lactobacillus family and others have been shown to promote immune health, fight pathogens, improve nutrient assimilation, prevent abnormal cellular growth and even benefit our mental and emotional health. Fermented foods offer some of the best source of viable friendly flora.
There are obvious advantages to becoming more mindful of the food we eat, including seeking out organic, locally grown produce. However, in today’s world we need to take a more specific approach and emphasize those foods known to provide powerful support for optimal health. These are just a few great examples of what will assuredly become a long list of functional, healing foods. For more practical health and wellness information, visit www.dreliaz.org.