Functional Foods, All You Need to Know
Functional foods have gained popularity within health and wellness circles.
Also known as nutraceuticals, functional foods are highly nutritious and associated with a number of powerful health benefits. For example, they may protect against disease, prevent nutrient deficiencies, and promote proper growth and development.
Functional foods are ingredients that offer health benefits that extend beyond their nutritional value. Some types contain supplements or other additional ingredients designed to improve health.
The concept originated in Japan in the 1980s when government agencies started approving foods with proven benefits in an effort to better the health of the general population.
Some examples include foods fortified with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, or fiber. Nutrient-rich ingredients like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains are often considered functional foods as well.
Oats, for instance, contain a type of fiber called beta glucan, which has been shown to reduce inflammation, enhance immune function, and improve heart health.
Similarly, fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that help protect against disease.
Functional foods are foods that offer health benefits beyond their nutritional value. In addition to nutrient-rich ingredients like fruits and veggies, the category also includes foods fortified with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and fiber.
Functional foods are generally separated into two categories: conventional and modified.
Conventional foods are natural, whole-food ingredients that are rich in important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats.
Meanwhile, modified foods have been fortified with additional ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, probiotics, or fiber, to increase a food’s health benefits.
Here are some examples of conventional functional foods:
Fruits: berries, kiwi, pears, peaches, apples, oranges, bananas
Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, zucchini
Nuts: almonds, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts
Seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds
Legumes: black beans, chickpeas, navy beans, lentils
Whole grains: oats, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, couscous
Seafood: salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, cod
Fermented foods: tempeh, kombucha, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut
Herbs and spices: turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper
Beverages: coffee, green tea, black tea