What are "functional foods"?

Functional foods

Do you ever come across the term "functional food" and wonder what the heck that means?  You're not alone.  It's a term that doesn't really say much on the surface. I mean, doesn't all food "function" by filling you up?

That's true, but there's more to the story.  According to a reference by Mayo Clinic, "Functional foods are foods that have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition."  That's interesting.  It sounds like the term is used to describe recipes that are intentionally designed to optimize nutrition.  Now that's where my ears started to perk up.

Even though I had never heard of the term "functional foods" when I started out, I've been designing Todd's Power Oats with the goal of packing as much health impact as possible into the most compact, efficient, and portable breakfast I could dream up.  

That's what led me to oatmeal.  And reinventing that humble oat into something mightier.  Going back to that Mayo Clinic article, they even point to oatmeal as the original example of a functional food when they write: "A familiar example of a functional food is oatmeal because it contains soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol levels."  I couldn't agree more.  And adding other powerhouse foods like chia seeds, flax seeds, and whey protein just kicks it up a notch.

For me, it's helpful to be aware of what isn't a functional meal.  Having a bowl of regular cereal (raisin bran anyone?) for breakfast feels good while I'm eating it, but 15 minutes later I start to feel bloated and sluggish from the big sugar crash.  Same thing with a bagel.  In short order, my body tells me that's not a functional meal.  But when I combine protein, fiber, and healthy fats into a meal made with fewer, simpler ingredients I have a different experience.  15 minutes after eating that type of intentionally healthy meal, I feel energized instead of drained.  That's what functional food means to me.

So the next time you hear "functional foods" being tossed around on the sidelines of your kid's soccer game, you can chime in and say "Well did you know that oatmeal is the original functional food?"

-Be good to your self!




Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published