Functional foods offer more than simply calories. From energy-boosting, muscle-mass-maintaining protein, to heart-, brain- and immunity-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, to the bone and joint superstar magnesium, our food has the capacity to offer us greater benefits than simply gas in the tank. A healthy diet contributes to a longer lifespan, and a better quality of living.
More than two-thirds of Americans believe they get enough vitamin D from their daily diets of food and supplements. In reality, the number is less than one-third—meaning most of us are lacking in at least one major nutritional category. How does that impact our food-buying decisions?
Let’s pay more attention to nutrition
The reality is that most nutrition facts labels won’t give us the whole story. Many of the important nutrients found in functional foods don’t have a “recommended daily value,” even though their health benefits are well-recognized. Armed with a little extra knowledge, we can make informed decisions about our food that allow us to lead longer, healthier lives.
Is yogurt a functional food? Absolutely!
Yogurt is finally shaking the “hippy food” stigma it once held, but consumer demands have yogurt manufacturers adding sugar—for taste—and decreasing fat—for... health?
We now know that full fat dairy is actually INVERSELY associated with weight gain and heart disease—meaning that people who ate more high fat / full fat dairy foods had a lower risk for diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found women who ate more of low-fat dairy foods increased their risk of infertility by more than 85%.
The probiotic strains L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium found in yogurt are widely recognized as dramatically improving digestion.
80% of women don’t get enough calcium, but yogurt can be a great souce of calcium!
Choosing the best yogurt
Yogurt, as a functional food, is only as beneficial as its ingredients. Many manufacturers are capitalizing on the healthy trend of yogurt without actually delivering health. Playing on consumers’ taste buds and that decades-old “low-fat” mantra, it’s easy to find yogurt that has more sugar than a scoop of ice cream. A quick look at the nutrition facts can help you decipher what’s real and what’s label hype
Check for a low sugar content on the nutrition facts: anything higher than 15g should have you scratching your head.
Look for fewer ingredients and preservatives, like the natural veggies and spices occurring in savory Indian yogurt.
Go full fat, not low fat; removing fat from yogurt often involves adding preservatives—or sugar—to enhance the taste. Both sweet and savory yogurt should taste great without unnatural additives.
Probiotics are a hugely beneficial part of this functional food; check each label for particular strains.
By paying attention to nutrition labels and eating for health—as well as for taste—you can have your cake (or yogurt!) and eat it, too.