Here’s why we say it’s a buzzword (or, buzz-phrase, anyhow!) with a long history: it sounds an awfully lot like the following saying: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” And that’s what Hippocrates—a Greek physician of renown—was saying nearly 2,500 years ago!
In one sense, all foods are functional in that, if they’re edible, there is some nutritional value. But, that’s not how the term is being used today.
The Mayo Clinic describes two functional food definitions:
This food goes beyond providing basic nutrition because of what it contains. For example, oatmeal is considered a functional food because its soluble fiber can help to lower cholesterol—a benefit that goes beyond the sheer nutritional value of this food.
The food was fortified in a way to add to its health benefits. The example they give is orange juice that’s been calcium-fortified for better bone health.
Creation of the Term: Functional Foods
This term was first used in the 1980s in Japan and, in this country, “refers to processed foods containing ingredients that aid specific bodily functions in addition to being nutritious.” In the United States, meanwhile, the Mayo Clinic notes that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates what manufacturers can say about the nutrient content of functional foods and the impact it has on health. Unlike in Japan, the U.S. government does not provide a functional food definition.
Functional Food Trends
An article from a few years ago in Food Technology Magazine noted several trends, and we’ll highlight two of them here.
Real Food Nutrition
One is that 88 percent of shoppers believe it’s very important to get their nutrition from foods that are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals. Meanwhile, one third of people surveyed are strongly focusing on eating foods and drinking drinks that naturally have nutrients.
Ninety percent of people agreed with the statement that processed foods are not as healthy as fresh ones—and top goals were to eat more vegetables and fruits and to limit the amount of processed foods being consumed.
This was another key trend—and we’re happy to say that, since this article was published in Food Technology Magazine in 2012, this trend has only continued to strengthen. In a December 2019 article in USA Today, for example, they noted that food trends for 2020 include that “plant-based continues to sprout.”
The article noted that the popularity of plants in people’s diets goes “beyond vegetarian and vegan diets,” also including people who are adding more fruits and vegetables to their meals for health reasons and for “taste curiosity.”
In the past, a food expert notes, people used to need to sneak veggies into meals for their kids. “Now,” she notes, “it’s for everyone.”
They also believe that people will “will continue to ask food makers about the sustainability of ingredients.” Here’s some information about how, at The Chef’s Garden, we go beyond sustainable farming, using regenerative farming techniques.
Food Technology Magazine published another article about the functional food trend in 2018. In it, they said the following: “Health and wellness continue to drive growth in the global food and beverage industry. Worldwide sales of naturally healthy foods reached $253 billion in 2017; functional/fortified foods totaled $247 billion.”
Consumers were now drinking more water, as well as eating more fruits and veggies, with people wanting to avoid artificial additives more than ever before. And, now that Millennials are having their own children, this momentum is expected to continue.
The functional food definition is closely related to the idea of food as medicine—and, at Roots 2018, we did an entire session on healing yourself, one bite at a time. In our coverage of that event, we also listed additional related sayings:
“He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skills of the physician.” Traditional Chinese proverb (no date known)
“No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.” Maimonides (1135-1204)
“Each patient carries his own doctor inside him.” Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness, published in 1979
If you’d like more information about that panel discussion, you can find it here:
Here are more perspectives about food as medicine from around the web.
“What you choose to eat has profound effects on your overall health. Research shows that dietary habits influence disease risk. While certain foods may trigger chronic health conditions, others offer strong medicinal and protective qualities.” (Can Food Act as Medicine? All You Need to Know at Healthline.com)
“The food-as-medicine movement has been around for decades, but it's making inroads as physicians and medical institutions make food a formal part of treatment, rather than relying solely on medications. By prescribing nutritional changes or launching programs such as "Shop with Your Doc," they're trying to prevent, limit or even reverse disease by changing what patients eat.” (Food As Medicine: It's Not Just A Fringe Idea Anymore at NPR.org)
And, here is a prediction from Thomas Edison, the creative genius born in Milan, Ohio (very close to the farm and the location of the Culinary Vegetable Institute). “The doctor of the future will give no medication but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”
The beauty of the food as medicine movement, of course, is that your medicine can taste flavorfully delicious—as it does with the crops we grow.
Health Benefits of Vegetables
Although we haven’t been using the term “functional foods” to describe the farm-fresh vegetables that we regeneratively farm at The Chef’s Garden, we have been sharing information about the health benefits of vegetables. Here are just a few examples from posts from 2019.
Health Benefits of Carrots
In our post about carrots, we quoted a scientist from Tufts University who pointed out how “Carrots are so much a part of our diet that their health benefits may have been overlooked.”
This is true, at least in significant part, because of this vegetable’s carotenoids. Carotenoids are pigments that help to keep plants healthy, helping them to absorb the light energy they need through the photosynthesis process.
We encourage you to read the entire post where we share information about health benefits of carrots. Here’s a sneak preview: MedicalNewsToday.com says that carrots are in fact the “ultimate health food.”
Plus, this delicious root vegetable is exceptionally versatile, as well. You can even use carrot tops in your recipes, such as this delicious puree—and even to add nutrition to your creative desserts.
Health Benefits of Farm-Fresh Greens
Near the beginning of this post, we shared a quote from Hippocrates: “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
We wholeheartedly agree, and we started our post on the health benefits of greens with a series of three short sayings—and we approve of each of them, as well:
You are what you eat.
You can pay the farmer—or pay the doctor.
Eat your greens.
In our post, we shared the results of a study published in Neurology in January 2018. The conclusion was that, if you eat half a cup of leafy cooked green vegetables, or a cup of raw ones, then this is connected to a slower decline in brain function. Here’s a quote from Tufts Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging that conducting the study: “lovers of leafy greens were the equivalent of 11 years younger than those who shunned the stuff.”
Here is a variety of farm-fresh greens to choose from.
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
Live Science says that cauliflower is “very versatile and vitamin-rich,” specifically noting the health benefits of its antioxidants, which may help to prevent diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. In 2018, the Mayo Clinic chose cauliflower as their nutritional superstar of the year.
As we noted in our post about the health benefits of cauliflower, this cruciferous vegetable is part of an elite list, 25 fruits and vegetables that made the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) because its powerhouse nutrients.
Plus, here’s what Nation’s Restaurant News has to say: “Cauliflower and zucchini—two overlooked vegetables—have become the darlings of the dinner table.” How? By serving as “veggie doppelgangers for grainy rice and carbo-loaded pasta.” They described riced cauliflower as being a diner favorite.
Here's our take on veggie carbs replacing traditional ones, and here are the varieties of cauliflower we’re growing on the farm.
Health Benefits of Beets
Then there are the amazing health benefits of beets! The beautiful beet is considered one of the world’s healthiest vegetables, at least in part because of how they’re a unique source of batalains. These plant substances are believed to aid in good health, while helping to prevent disease. Beets naturally remove toxins from your body, including your liver, while also providing anti-inflammatory benefits, health-boosting antioxidants, and more.
Consumer Reports calls beets a “vibrant” root vegetable, and they offer a piece of advice that’s close to our hearts: Don’t Toss the Tops!
The article goes on to say the following: “When you buy fresh beets, you’re essentially getting two vegetables in one. Those leafy green tops (which many people chop off and throw away) are also incredibly tasty and nutritious.”
Farmacy at The Chef’s Garden
So, as you can see from just four blog post examples shared above, although we haven’t been using the term “functional foods,” we’ve been sharing information about the underlying concept for a long time now.
A term we have been using for years now is Farmacy. Here’s more about that.
At The Chef’s Garden, you never have to choose between foods bursting with sweetness and flavor and those that are very good for your health. Our fresh vegetables and herbs, microgreens and more are incredibly flavorful, visually appealing and brimming with nutrition. Healthy eating can, indeed, be a treat for the palate and on the plate. Why? We start with healthy soil and plant our crops in harmony with nature. As they take in the sun’s vibrant rays, they are chock full of vitamins and minerals. Healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy food for people. And, here’s one more equation: farmacy = you can have it all!
Anti Aging Box
Optimal Health Box
The Chef’s Garden brings you boxes of flavorful, farm-fresh vegetables, chock full of nutrition. Because we farm in harmony with Mother Nature, specifics of what’s in a box will vary by season, but you can always count on receiving the best of the day’s harvest. The detoxification box, for example, will include delicious choices that improve digestion while also supporting liver, gallbladder and bowel health—while the anti-aging box will include selections that help to reduce inflammation in your body while promoting skin integrity. There’s also a box with fresh vegetables chosen to support optimal health for you and your family.
We invite you to also check what farm-fresh produce is currently available. The Chef's Garden offers a variety of products harvested at the peak of freshness. Our products are seasonally grown and every year is different.
If you’ve already been selecting your farm-fresh vegetables, microgreens, herbs, and edible flowers from The Chef’s Garden, we encourage you to contact your product specialist to find out what is at the ideal peak of freshness right now.
If you’re new to The Chef’s Garden, welcome! We’re honored to have the opportunity to become your personal farmer. You can find out first steps to take here.