What are Functional Foods and How They Can Enrich Your Health?

Functional foods (or drinks) are products that have been enriched nutrition that are beneficial to your health.[3] 

You may not realize it, but functional foods may already be part of your life. When you go to a supermarket to buy milk or yogurt, you probably choose the milk-based off the “amount of fat” and when you buy yogurt, you probably choose it based on the flavor you like.

If you look closely at the product label, you may see milk fortified with vitamin D or yogurt, which are fortified with probiotics, these are considered functional foods. Functional foods (or drinks) are products that have been enriched with nutrition that are beneficial to your health.[3] 

Functional foods are typically split into two groups (conventional functional foods and modified functional foods). Conventional functional foods, as the name implies, are natural or already included in the foods naturally.

Some examples include fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and tea which have many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.[1,5] On the other hand, modified functional foods are those products that have additional nutrition fortified into the food. Some examples include milk with vitamin D, chocolate with vitamin D, yogurt with probiotics, and many others.[1,5]

Now that we know what functional foods are and the two groups of functional foods, how can ingesting functional foods enrich our health? Both categories of functional foods (conventional and modified) provide their own unique benefits. Some potential benefits of functional foods include helping with nutritional deficiencies, protection from certain diseases, and the promotion of proper growth and development. [1]

For example, someone with constipation or high cholesterol may benefit from the conventional functional food oatmeal. Oatmeal contains plenty of soluble fiber which may soften the stool and lower cholesterol.[2] An example for modified functional food would be people with a 9-5 office cubical job who do not get much sunlight.

During an annual examination, they may find out that they have Vitamin D deficiency. They may choose to drink milk fortified with Vitamin D or even snack on some chocolate fortified with Vitamin D to replenish their Vitamin D levels.

When utilized correctly, functional foods may provide a simple and convenient method to deal with nutritional deficiencies, disease prevention, and developmental support. However, moderation is the key for everything, and you do not want to over-consume any product even if they are natural and good for you. If you have worries or concerns, we always recommend for you to speak with your pharmacist or physician to come up with a plan.

In conclusion, a balanced diet is essential in maintaining a healthy life. Functional foods may help to fill in some essential nutrients that might be missing in your diet. Functional foods such as fruits or drinks such as tea can also provide antioxidants that can help fight off diseases.

Lastly, this article is not meant to treat, diagnose, or prevent any disease; it is for informational purposes only so make sure to consult with your physician and pharmacist before starting any new medications, medical food, or supplements.

 

Reference:
[1]. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/functional-foods#examples
[2]. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/functional-foods/faq-20057816
[3]. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19516225/
[4]. https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2011-09/truth-about-medical-foods#:~:text=Although%20functional%20foods%20can%20be%20beneficial%20and%20easy%20for%20people,claims%20as%20can%20medical%20foods.
[5]. https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/functional-foods

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