One of the keys to eating healthy is to think of food in terms of its function. "How is this food making me healthier?" is a question to ask yourself when making food choices. This is why you should opt for foods high in minerals, vitamins and other beneficial compounds instead of just going for the tastiest food - although taste is obviously important!
The foods or food groups below are both functional and tasty, read on to discover how they can help make you healthier and happier!
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Turmeric has been popping up in the weirdest of places recently, from lattes to ice cream (yes, it exists)! Why is turmeric so popular these days? Well, it is mostly down to turmerics potent anti-inflammatory properties - in fact, turmeric has been shown to be as effective as ibuprofen in reducing inflammation (1). Turmeric has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine, with the earliest evidence of its medicinal use dating from around 4500BC (2).
Nowadays turmeric can be easily found in your local supermarket in either fresh or ground form and curcumin supplements (curcumin is the main active anti-inflammatory ingredient in turmeric) can be found in most health shops.
Which should you opt for? It is advisable to use turmeric regularly in cooking where it can be incorporated into many dishes, and use curcumin supplements only when they are needed such as if you have a soft-tissue injury, inflammation or illness.
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In the traditional western diet, muscle meats are consumed more often than other types of meat such as organ meats, gelatinous meats and even skin and bones. Common gelatinous meats include ox cheek, oxtail, short rib, chicken feet or wings and shin.
The main health benefits of eating gelatinous meats comes from the collagen and glycine it contains. The collagen is important for our joints, skin and our gut lining, whereas glycine is an important amino acid, especially for those eating a high quantity of muscle meat.
While eating muscle meats does provide us with a good dose of protein and other essential minerals and vitamins, eating too much muscle meat and not enough of the other type of meats can be detrimental to our health. This is due to the high levels of methionine which raises the level of homocysteine in our blood, too much of which is a significant risk factor for heart disease, stroke, mental illness and fractures. Glycine helps to lower the levels of homocysteine in the blood, reversing the negative effects.
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The link between gut health and overall health has long been established, and as our knowledge on the subject increases, as does the research into it. As a result, we are continuing to discover links between gut health and many other aspects of physical and mental health. Gut health is down to a variety of factors including: genetic, environmental, physical and nutritional. Of these, the aspect we have the greatest control over is arguably the nutritional side of things. A lot has been said about probiotics - foods or supplements which provide our gut with beneficial bacteria - but there is another piece to the puzzle we may be ignoring. It is all well and good introducing bacteria within our gut by eating foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, probiotic yoghurts, kimchi and kombucha, but these bacteria need to feed on something. This is where prebiotics come in - compounds from food which induce growth in beneficial bacteria and fungi within the gut. Prebiotics are often found in the non-digestible parts of foods such as unripe bananas, the skins of fruits such as apples and pears, onion, garlic, chicory root and Jerusalem artichokes. They can also be found in resistant starches such as cooked and cooled sweet potatoes and other root vegetables.
Enjoy a mix of probiotic and prebiotic foods by introducing them into your diet if you have not yet done so. Keep your gut happy and your gut will keep you happy!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Maitland is a personal trainer with over 10 years’ experience. He has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.