Did you know that certain foods or food components may provide health and wellness 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. Examples of these foods include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fortified
foods and beverages and some dietary supplements.
All foods have certain functions and some nutritional value, but functional foods have more specific and targeted nutritional value for physiological functions and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional
functions, and may be similar in
appearance to conventional food and consumed as part of a regular diet, than others. In other words, it is modified food that claims to improve health or well-being by providing benefit beyond that of the traditional nutrients
The term was first used in Japan in the 1980s where there is a government approval process for functional foods called Foods for Specified Health Use.
Functional foods have a potentially positive effect on
health beyond basic nutrition. Proponents of functional foods say they promote optimal health and help reduce the risk of disease.
A familiar example of a functional food is oatmeal because it contains soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol levels. Some foods are
modified to have health benefits. An example is orange juice that’s been
fortified with calciumfor bone health.
Personalizing nutrition to an individual’s unique genetic makeup has the potential for positive health outcomes overall. Functional foods can
help fulfill nutritional deficiencies; if you’re not getting enough of a nutrient, you can consume a functional food to fulfill
In brief, functional foods deliver additional or enhanced benefits over and above their basic nutritional value
and include a very broad range of products.
Some functional foods are generated around a particular functional ingredient, for example foods containing probiotics, prebiotics, or plant stanols and sterols.
Other functional foods or drinks can be foods fortified with a nutrient that would not usually be present to any great extent (e.g. folic acid fortified bread or breakfast cereals).
Functional foods and drinks may provide benefits in health terms, but should not be seen as an alternative to a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
If you want to try functional foods, choose wisely. And keep in mind that while functional foods may help promote wellness, they can’t make up for poor eating habits.
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