Every few years, new trends emerge when it comes to healthy eating. One of the biggest current trends you'll see everywhere from food packaging to online marketing and social media is around the phrase “functional food”. But does one food really have the superpower to keep us healthy and ward off chronic disease? Or is it too good to be true”? The answer, what the research tells us, may surprise you.
There is actually no legal definition for the term "functional food." And really, all whole foods can be considered functional as they each can provide unique health benefits (protein for muscle repair, carbohydrates for energy, vitamins and minerals for specific cell functions). And what do we mean when we say, "whole food"? We’re talking about food that has not been processed, refined or had ingredients added to them; think vegetables, fruit, whole grains and seeds to name a few.
So, here’s the verdict: the research is clear that no ONE food can function as a miracle cure for what ails us, serve as a fountain of youth, or prevent chronic diseases. Where whole foods become powerful and can help prevent illness and promote wellness is when they are incorporated as part of a varied, plant-forward eating pattern along with other healthy lifestyle behaviors. It’s all about the culmination and interaction of a wide variety of potent, nutrient dense foods – functional foods if you will – working together. That’s where the magic happens.
And it really is simple; we just need to Eat the Rainbow. Yes, it’s that easy and here’s why: Nature did something pretty cool. It color-coded all of its nutrients for us. Each color we find in whole foods represents a specific phytonutrient (basically plant chemicals) that helps to prevent disease and keep the body working properly. Eating the Rainbow encourages variety which ensures our body gets all the nutrients it needs. For example, red foods have lycopene, orange and yellow contain beta cryptothanxin, and blue and purple foods have anthocyanins. And each one of those phytonutrients helps our body is a very specific way. But who can pronounce all those words let alone worry about what each one does and how much we need each day? No one has time for that! Instead, just focus on these three words: Rainbow, Whole Foods, Variety.
Of course, you can eat piles of carrot sticks and apple slices every day, but my guess is that will get boring and ultimately unsustainable for most. So, let’s make it exciting! Your challenge is to get creative in the kitchen. Note, I didn’t say, "Spend all day in the kitchen." There are tons of EASY cooking techniques and recipes out there to help you incorporate nutrient-dense foods into every meal and it just so happens that the Vitamix is an amazing tool to help you do just that. Here are just a few creative tips:
- A healthy dip like Roasted Red Pepper Hummus or even a homemade White Bean Ranch Dressing packs a one-two punch: they are made with veggies and can be eaten with veggies, win – win! Plus, creating your own dips and spreads allows you more control over the ingredients, especially salt, fat, and added sugar, things we need to eat less of.
- You may be surprised at the variety of colors you can create with a smoothie. While spinach and kale are popular ingredients, have you ever added beets, butternut squash or broccoli to your blended creations? I’m not sure which you will be more impressed by, the colors or the flavor!
Just remember, while functional and whole foods may help promote wellness, they can't make up for poor lifestyle habits. Keep it simple: Eating the rainbow is one important way to live your LIFE IN COLOR.