FUNCTIONAL FOOD. This might seem like a new term, but it was actually coined in the 1980s, when a research programme was started in Japan to chart the health effects of various foodstuffs. In Asia it is traditionally normal to regard food as medicine, and vice versa. The stomach is regarded as central – that is where the soul is located, and it is therefore important what we put in it. It is also important, in the Orient, to prevent illness rather than curing it.

”We don’t always remember that what we eat should help all the body’s cells, muscles, heart and brain to work at their best, without complications,” says Hallberg. ”We want to be healthy and to function properly, but we stuff our bodies with food that doesn’t give us what we need. If we know more about functional food, we can become better at filling our bodies, day by day, with food that helps it to function.”

The best-known foodstuffs in functional food are dairy products with beneficial bacterial cultures, high-fibre bread and pasta products and margarines with beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids.

”These do their job, but ”adding functionality” is also a good way of promoting yourself and selling more products. Beans, nuts and vegetables are shining examples of natural functional food. I’d like to see us begin to classify fruit and vegetables as functional food, and give the vegetable stall its own function list where we can read what all those vegetables do to the body. Eating more vegetables is sustainable both for our health and for our planet.”

PLAN YOUR FOOD

Functional food is not a diet or a magic cure. The cornerstones of a good diet, according to Hallberg, are: eat regularly, eat breakfast, eat lots of vegetables and drink water. Limit sugar, semi-finished products and alcohol as much as possible. Eat more vegetables and cut down on meat and fast carbohydrates.

”A good diet depends a lot on planning. People often skip a meal, or don’t eat breakfast, because they haven’t got time. If you take 30 seconds to think through what you’re going to eat tomorrow, and when you’re going to eat it, it will be easier to stick to your plan. Have I got what I need for tomorrow? If not, what shall I do? Can I do my shopping on the way to work, or at lunchtime? The only person who can say what you need in order to put your life puzzle together is you.”

At work, it’s easy to skip lunch or eat too little, to save time. The result is often that you eat more in the evening, or buy something unnecessary on the way home, because you’re so exhausted and hungry. This wears the body out.

”Lunchboxes are good, but they need a bit of care and planning to really fulfil their function. If your lunchbox contains too much of everything, it doesn’t seem particularly appetising, and there’s a risk that you’ll go out instead, and eat something else, something less nutritious.”

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

Anneli believes in acquiring a modicum of knowledge from scientific websites or enlisting the help of a dietician or nutritional advisor. Even more than this, though, she encourages everyone to become better at listening to the body’s signals.

”I think that as an individual you often know best which food is good for you – if you learn to feel. We are all different, and need different food. Get into the habit of checking how you react to different foods and which food keeps you in a good mood, and think about your eating habits. Only when you know why you have such a craving for sweets can you do something about it. Be aware of how you feel when you eat a lot of sugar, compared with functional food. Of course there’s a place for cakes, but not as a substitute for food.”

NAME: Anneli Hallberg

AGE: 41

LIVES IN: Gothenburg

PROFESSION: After ten years as a cook, I retrained as a health educator. Now I run my own company, where I work as a health coach and personal trainer with a focus on weight reduction and sustainable healthy habits.

WHEN I’M NOT WORKING: I’m out in the countryside with my dogs, playing beach volleyball or cuddling up in my easy chair at home.

MY FAVOURITE DISH: Cod with egg sauce and potatoes, peas and broccoli.

WHAT MAKES ME FEEL GOOD: Spending time with people I love, working on my personal development and being out the countryside. Accelerating and slowing down!