Welcome to the world of “Functional Foods” – Finally, functional foods are gaining the attention they truly deserve.
Functional Foods are foods that have a potentially positive effect on health. All foods are functional in the sense that they have nutrients or other substances that provide energy, sustain growth or support vital processes but functional foods may do more for you than simply provide vitamins, minerals and energy. They may be able to improve your health.
Functional foods are “those foods that encompass potentially healthful products including any modified food or ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains,” as defined by the Institute of Medicine. Functional foods can include foods like cereals, breads and beverages which are fortified with vitamins, herbs and nutraceuticals.
The healing power of food is a popular concept that focuses on how “super foods” can have health protecting properties. Medicinal foods or “nutritionally high powered foods” have been part of the natural products industry for a long time and, through emerging scientific research and particularly through growing public interest, they have reached the mainstream.
Functional foods are often used for special dietary needs and are considered similar to medical foods, but they do not require a prescription and are conveniently available over the counter.
Functional foods are considered to offer additional benefits that may reduce the risk of disease or promote optimal health. Functional foods may occur naturally like in fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes or carrots, or they can be fortified or enriched. Examples of functional foods include milk enriched with vitamin D, calcium fortified orange juice and spreads with omega-3 added.
Functional foods can help address special dietary needs for patients with specific health conditions, such as celiac disease, lactose intolerance or obesity. Metabolic Syndrome and specific detoxification needs are other examples of conditions that can have positive results with functional foods. Gluten-free foods, lactose-free dairy products and foods designed to aid weight loss may also be considered functional foods.