Functional Foods: Let’s Get Back to the Basics

Any food that serves a nutritional function is a functional food.  That encompasses most all food we eat, with the possible exception of Twinkies and their ilk–they do more damage than good. Manufacturers are working hard to put function in all their foods. There are even “whole grain” toaster pastries now. But has consuming fortified and enriched foods like we have in recent decades done us any good?  If you look at the recent statistics finding that 69% of Americans are fat and obese, I think not. And despite repeated issues of the Dietary Guidelines set forth by the USDA, only 7% of us are eating our vegetables.

Nowadays there is a dietitian in every other grocery store.  But is that helping? There is so much information bombarding us from every direction that we follow behind our grocery carts like deer in the headlights, blinded by the glare of confusing messaging on all those brightly colored packages screaming for attention. That’s why the dietitians are put there, to guide us through the jungle. But why do we need someone to tell us how to do something that should come naturally? Innately? And what if junk in a box is still junk in a box, even with added fish fat? (Gag.)

The nut/dried fruit capital of the world
The nut/dried fruit capital of the world / Jeremy Weate / CC BY 2.0

It’s time to get back to the basics. Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds are Mother Nature’s functional foods, uniquely qualified to serve our purposes. So where do you start? Not with the USDA guidelines because, as Marion Nestlé exposes in her book Food Politics, the guidelines committee has been infiltrated with food industry representatives who are much more interested in making money than making you healthy. Even the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has dozens of corporate sponsors on their website. Who else but a corporation would come up with the phrase “all foods in moderation” or “there is no such thing as a bad food”?  So where else can you turn?  Not to your doctor.  Medical universities barely cover nutrition in their curriculums.  Not newspapers and magazines.

Journalists are interested in sales and hype sells.  How about the scientists and doctors who study nutrition, perform research and publish papers in peer-reviewed journals?  No, not Atkins: he died of heart disease and bragged about never publishing a paper. I’m talking about folks who have been telling us the optimum way to eat for decades, tirelessly working to prove themselves over and over again so that you and I could live up to our potential. Until the recent popularity of the film Forks Over Knives, they had been relegated to the fringe.  They are names you have heard and ignored.  They would like nothing better than for you to regain your health
and they all have the same message: get back to the basics.

Check out any of the works (and websites) of these doctors and researchers and you will be rewarded with improved health and functioning. And its all free (at the library).

To Read

T. Colin Campbell, PHD, The China Study
Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes
Dr. Neal Barnard’s PCRM
Dr. John McDougall, Digestive Tune-Up
Dr. Dean Ornish, Spectrum
Dr. Joel Furhman, Eat to Live
Dr. Michael Gregor, Carbophobia

To Watch

Forks Over Knives
Food, Inc.
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
Killer at Large
Dying to Have Known