“Colors of the rainbow is the goal,” said Megan Campbell, Sodexo’s district dietitian for Northwestern, at today’s Food for Thought event on superfoods and functional foods. She wasn’t talking about Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz; she was referring to bright colored fruits and vegetables. Fruit pigments provide protective benefits for the body, Campbell said.
When Campbell walks around the Northwestern dining halls, she sees some students eating beautiful salads and others with plates full of fries and burgers. Northwestern students, she says, are on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to eating. For those who are not eating very healthily, she says, adding something bright green or bright orange to diets will definitely be beneficial.
A functional food is a food or a supplement that has an extra boost, Campbell says. It can be things like enhanced water, orange juice, bright fruits and vegetables, yogurt, oats, fish and black and green tea.
Campbell offers several tips to improve your diet with little thought or strain on your budget:
- Frozen vegetables, instead of canned vegetables are great, inexpensive functional foods because they are packed when they are the freshest, Campbell says.
- Another quick, functional food students can eat is yogurt. They contain probiotics which colonize the gut to push out bad bacteria and allow good bacteria to take up more space. “That in turn helps people with digestion,” she says.
- She also recommends replacing some meat with soy. That way diets will have a decrease in saturated fats and gain some compounds that are protective of the heart. “So you get a double whammy,” she says. Students can replace burgers with garden burgers or 2% milk with soy milk. Eating soy a few times a week is perfectly healthy, she assures students.
- Omega-3 eggs are another functional food Campbell recommends. Omega-3 is a type of fatty acid that lowers the risk for cardiovascular disease. “You get some good proteins, you get some healthy fats, and you get some Omega-3 as well,” Campbell says.
- Campbell also recommends caution when taking supplements. She says it worries her that sometimes supplements may not have as much of a functional component as a person thinks they are getting. “When shopping for supplements, be aware that there isn’t that much regulation out there,” she says.
- Vitamin D, however, is a supplement that Campbell recommends people incorporate into their diets more. It is a vitamin that many people don’t get enough of. She says vitamin D is important for lowering heart disease risks, diabetes risks, and metal defects.
By adding some of Campbell’s functional food tips to your everyday diet, you’ll be on your way to a healthier lifestyle.