Join us on September 20, 2016, 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for the free class “Functional Foods: Beyond Basic Nutrition.” The class will take place at the UVM Medical Center Davis Auditorium. Click here to register. 

If you want to take your diet to the next level, it’s time to add “functional foods” to your grocery list. What’s that? Foods that are jam-packed with a special kind of nutrient we call “phytonutrients,” a newly discovered element of nutrition that may help prevent disease.

You may have heard of some phytonutrients, like “carotenoids,” which act as antioxidants in your body and help prevent tissue damage, or “flavonoids,” which help reduce the risk of asthma, certain types of cancer, and coronary heart disease. Believe it or not, there are 25,000 more phytonutrients found in plant foods! And, they are all linked to better health.

Some of the super stars include broccoli, berries, flaxseed, yogurt, whole grains, and tea. The phytonutrients these foods contain are associated with reduced cardiovascular disease, increased immune function and cellular detoxification, improved gastrointestinal health, and reduced risk of cancer.

When we consider the range of functional foods, we find that there is much variety. You can’t get bored when the options include colorful fruits, green-leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, and cold-water fish. Consuming a variety of whole foods will give you the best opportunity to nourish your body with a wide range of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Here’s your guide to eating the cornucopia of phytonutrients:

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Source: International Food Information Council Foundation – Functional Foods FoodInsight.org

Emily Clairmont, RD, is a registered dietician at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

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