Food and Nutrition Stars: And the Award Goes to . . .

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The upcoming 87th Academy Awards have us holding our breath to see who wins for best picture, best director, and best actor and actress. With the awards spirit in the air, we have decided to recognize some stars in the food and nutrition world. Remember, there are a lot of health promoting foods and food components out there that provide nutrition benefits. These foods, also known as “functional foods,” are thought to provide benefits beyond basic nutrition and may play a role in reducing or minimizing the risk of certain diseases and other health conditions.

Now let’s take a look at this year’s nominees:



Best Stunt-Double: the Roughest and Toughest


Insoluble fiber: This functional food component is often found in wheat bran, corn bran, and the skin of fruits. It may support the maintenance of digestive health and may reduce the risk of some types of cancers. Hungry now? Add a little dry wheat bran when making smoothies or muffins to bulk up the fiber!


Beta glucan: This functional food component is often found in oats – that is oat bran, oatmeal, and oat flour – but also found in barley and rye. Beta glucan is a stunt double by trade – but a heartthrob by night – it may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD)! At work? Keep instant oatmeal packets in your desk drawer to have on hand when you miss breakfast or need a hearty afternoon snack. 


Soluble fiber: This function food component is often found in psyllium seed husk, peas, beans, apples, and citrus fruits. It may reduce the risk of CHD and some types of cancer. Try adding c

anned beans (black, pinto, or garbanzo) to your regular meal – layer them in quesadillas, add to an omelet or enjoy in a mixed green salad.


Whole grains: Whole grains are found in cereal grains such as whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice. They may reduce the risk of CHD and some types of cancers, but may also support maintenance of healthy blood glucose levels. Need a pick-me-up? Keep a few mini-bags of microwave popcorn in your desk drawer to pop for a quick, low-calorie snack.



OM(ega)G! Best Surprise: An Unexpected Role


Omega-3 Fatty Acids – ALA: Many people are surprised to learn that there are different types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found in walnuts, flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil. It may support the maintenance of health and eye health and may support mental function maintenance. When cooking, get a little more ALA by substituting flaxseed oil or canola or olive oil one or two times per week.


Omega-3 Fatty Acids – DHA/EPA: This is the other type of Omega-3 Fatty Acid, which is found in salmon, tuna, and marine and other fish oils. It may reduce the risk of CHD and may support the maintenance of eye health and mental function. In a fish mood? Salmon or tuna canned in water or a shelf-stable pouch can make easy and affordable meals.


Omega-6 Fatty Acids: this functional food component is found in many oils – such as safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, canola, and flaxseed oil. It may reduce the risk of CHD and certain types of cancer. Just like with omega-3 fatty acids (ALA), use oils like safflower or sunflower a few times a week to get more omega-6!



Best PRO-gressive Performance: Digest this!


Probiotics: This component is found in certain yogurts and other cultured dairy and non-dairy applications. They may support the maintenance of your digestive and immune health. For a healthful breakfast, top pancakes with flavored yogurt and fresh fruit like streawberries and bananas.


Prebiotics: These food components are found in whole grains, onions, some fruits, garlic, honey, leeks banana, fortified foods and beverages. They may support the maintenance of digestive health and may support calcium absorption. Does your digestive system need some soothing? Adding honey to oatmeal or yogurt, drizzling it over a banana, or spreading it on your morning toast can get you the prebiotics you need!


sweet-flavanoidsBest Romance: Sweetest Performance


Flavonols: these functional food components are found in… chocolate! But also in tea, apples, and grapes. Flavonols may support the maintenance of heart health. When included in moderation, dark chocolate can be part of a balanced diet.


Procyanidins and Proanthocyanidins: These functional food components are also found in chocolate – as well as cranberries, apples, strawberries, grapes, peanuts, cinnamon, and tea. They may support the maintenance of urinary tract health and heart health. Create your own dark chocolate fondue by melting dark chocolate in the microwave or on the stovetop and serving with fresh fruit.


We have some great nominees this year. Who do you think should win?


Envelope please . . . .



Authored by Sarah Romotsky, RD and Rachel Paul, MS, RD, Research Assistant and Doctoral Student at Teachers College, Columbia University