Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi

Functional Foods - Plants Over Pills

Brittany Simmons R.D.

There are three things humans need for survival- food, water and air. Food was once used for survival. It wasn’t for pleasure. There is a new term trending now, “functional foods,” which is using food to provide a certain health benefit to prevent or treat disease or illnesses. Do you eat with that purpose in mind? I ate pizza last night… before you judge, it was homemade veggie pizza! But I wasn’t eating it trying to prevent cancer. Although it was healthy, I was eating it for pleasure, and I definitely ate more that I should have! Pizza and Netflix seemed like a great treat at the time.

Picture this - you add fresh garlic to your sautéed veggies with the purpose of preventing the flu. That’s functional eating. Call it being a “health nut” if you must, but those nutty people are actually onto something genius. This is different from eating a salad to lose weight, because it is about a specific food that you consume much more often that is actually high in a certain antioxidant, mineral or amino acid that is providing the health benefits. There are physicians using functional foods to heal and prevent diseases. These foods are backed by research and not just recommended by your grandmother who lived to be 100 and was never sick. She probably has a lot of great advice we should be listening to though!

Doctors who encourage functional foods are practicing a form of natural medicine to heal and prevent disease with food. They choose to prescribe plants instead of pills as first line of treatment. Disclaimer: do not discontinue any medications without discussing with your doctor. You can use both approaches to truly improve health safely, until otherwise directed. Here are five foods that have shown to have healing health benefits.

Steel-Cut Oats: Contain manganese, selenium, vitamin B1, soluble fiber, magnesium and protein. Steel-cut oats raise blood sugar slower. Its function is to lower LDL (bad cholesterol).

Lentils: Contain fiber, folate, manganese, protein, vitamin B1 and potassium. Its function is to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Brussels Sprouts: Contain vitamins C, K, A, B6, B1, B2, E, fiber, potassium, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, protein and calcium. It can help to prevent breast cancer in women and colon cancer in men.

Artichokes: Contain vitamins A, C, K, beta-carotene, folate, potassium, iron and flavonoids. Its function is to reduce Irritable Bowel Syndrome and lower LDL cholesterol.

Yogurt: Contains phosphorus, vitamin B2, iodine and calcium, and it is a fermented food. Its function is to fight off infection, reduce inflammation and keep your stomach healthy.

Before you make a grocery list, just know that all plants are functional foods. This is why I say, “Plants over Pills!” As always, talk to your doctor before ever making any changes to your diet or medication.

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