Would you choose grapefruit or pancakes for breakfast? In the last decades, the list of functional foods has grown, resulting in a change in the eating habits and lifestyles of society. Functional foods refer to consumable items that have been determined to contain natural compounds that are beneficial to the body. These food items can be in its natural form, such as the fruits and vegetables that we consume on a daily basis, or the nuts often included in a high protein diet. Functional foods can also be in a processed form, where food items are supplemented with the active natural compounds to improve health. For example, certain milk brands are now fortified with vitamin D, while vitamins B1 and B2 have been added to cheese, and thus these food items are considered as functional foods. Protein drinks are also commercially available for individuals who want to follow a high protein diet, especially those health advocates who are into bodybuilding.
Biomedical research has shown that the consumption of functional foods, including following a high protein diet, can improve our health. More importantly, following a high protein diet can prevent the development of more serious medical diseases. The phrase functional foods may also sound too scientific, but one can simply take this concept as a way of identifying a food item with its corresponding natural chemical compound. So the fruits and vegetables that we buy in the grocery will remain the same fruits and vegetables that we have consumed for decades, but now we possess a better understanding on why these are good for our health.
Fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids, or plant compounds that prevent the development of cardiovascular diseases. There are various types of flavonoids in fruits and vegetables, for example, red and purple-colored berries are rich in anthocyanin flavonoids, while flavanones are present in citrus fruits. On the other hand, a meal containing soybeans and peanuts is generally considered as a high protein diet, giving almost the equivalent amount of amino acids that could be derived from eating steaks or pork chops. Given the fact that peanuts and steak have almost the same amount of protein in each 100-gram serving, what else makes a high protein diet consisting of legumes and nuts more advantageous to the consumer?
The functional foods such as fruit and vegetables and the nuts and legumes in a high protein diet are known to contain high amount of fiber, which plays an essential role in preventing a number of medical disorders.
Given this current trend in promoting the consumption of nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables as functional foods, it would be interesting to know exactly if there is any sound proof to this campaign. In addition, are there more specific diseases that are controlled by eating functional foods or following a high protein diet? In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society (AGS), the positive health benefits of eating high-fiber meals have been correlated to the reduction in development of periodontal disease in elderly men. Periodontal disease refers to the inflammation of the gums due to infection or irritation. In older individuals, untreated periodontal disease often results in loss of teeth as well.
The research report in the AGS journal described the results of a study involving more than 600 men above 65 years of age who were regularly monitored for a total of 24 years. These study participants were monitored in terms of dental health, together with dietary assessments for fruit and vegetables that were regularly consumed. The inclusion of high protein diet was also determined, as well as the intake for any other functional foods. The study showed that study participants who consumed at least 2.5 grams of fiber from fruits and vegetables and a high protein diet showed a 40% reduction in the deterioration of jaw bones, resulting in the prevention of periodontal disease. Fiber from fruits and vegetables, coupled with regular exercise thus decreased the rate of developing gum disease.