The term "functional foods" has a lengthy history. This concept refers to ingredients that have a positive impact on a person's health. These foods go beyond essentially supplying basic nutrition. In other words, functional foods are promoting excellent health while also helping to avoid sickness.
The preferences of modern consumers have changed dramatically over the past 10 years. The consumption of traditional product formats is falling, more and more buyers are interested in proper nutrition and the beneficial properties of ingredients.
The problem with modern nutrition is a big variety of food that can not satisfy all the needs of the human body. In the 90s, Japanese scientists began to work on the creation of so-called functional foods, which differ from others with increased benefits. What are functional products? Why do they matter? Where you can find them? Let's figure it out together.
The functional product category is a new generation of foods with added benefits for the body – they have an increased concentration of nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Such foods have become a response to the current consumer demand – the desire to take care of yourself without the use of pills and biological additives. Each of the functional products solves specific health problems. Basically, functional foods are designed to provide physiological benefits or reduce the risk of chronic disease.
What products are functional?
In Canada, this term refers to food and beverages that are fortified with specific nutrients and are beneficial to human health. However, all foods are functional to one degree or another, since they provide the body with the energy and nutrients required to sustain life. At the same time, there is evidence that certain food components that are not considered nutrients in the conventional sense also have health benefits.
Most often, functional products are produced by nature itself. For example, turmeric, flaxseed, spirulina, or cocoa are the most prominent examples of functional foods. They are also called superfoods because of their extraordinary nutritional value and balanced composition. Beekeeping products, ginger, berries, chia seeds, nuts, sprouted grains and tahini are also functional foods. They are extremely popular in wellness nutrition, which is the basis of a healthy lifestyle concept.
Heat treatment, which would destroy vitamins and important microelements, is not usually required for functional food items. Sometimes it can be poured over with hot milk or water, similar to flakes. The most essential benefit of such food is that it provides at least 30% of a person's daily need for biologically valuable substances, therefore functional ingredients are recommended for both children and adults.
Functional food examples
Functional foods are classified into two types: conventional and modified.
Natural, whole-food elements rich in key nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats comprise conventional foods.
Meanwhile, modified foods have been fortified with additional substances such as vitamins, minerals, probiotics, or fibre to improve the health benefits of the food.
Here are some examples of conventional functional foods:
Fruits: berries, kiwi, pears, peaches, apples, oranges, bananas
Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, zucchini
Whole grains: oats, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, couscous
Nuts: almonds, cashews, walnuts, macadamia nuts
Beverages: coffee, green tea, black tea
Seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds
Legumes: black beans, chickpeas, navy beans, lentils
Seafood: salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, cod
Herbs and spices: turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper
Here are some examples of modified functional foods:
Fortified cereal and granola
Fortified dairy products, such as milk and yogurt
Fortified milk alternatives, such as almond, rice, coconut, and cashew milk
Fortified grains, such as bread and pasta
Granola clusters as a new approach to functional nutrition
Such functional foods as granola clusters contain a variety of nutrients as the body needs. Nuts are well-known for supporting heart health, and weight loss. Many types of berries and seeds have functional properties. For example, Nutybite adds a functional boost with dried blueberries, cranberries, cherries, turmeric and smoked paprika powder, pumpkin seeds, ginger as well as coconut flakes. Thanks to this property, they are many times superior in efficiency to any, even the most balanced diet, consisting of conventional products. At the same time, a person does not have to spend time preparing meals and calculating calories.
Functional products are the future
According to researchers, the market for functional foods and beverages will only keep rising. GranfViewResearch experts predict that the category will show 7.9% growth annually by 2025. They cite consumer interest in foods containing probiotics and amino acids as a response to the worldwide increase in diseases of the cardiovascular and digestive systems. Many countries support a healthy lifestyle and the production of fortified products at the state level. The authors of the report noted that such initiatives have already been developed in Japan, India, and China.
It must be understood that functional foods are not magic wands or panacea. There are no "good" and "bad" foods, there are only good and bad diets. At the same time, diet is only one of the components of a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise, elimination of bad habits, stress reduction, maintaining healthy body weight, and many other points. Functional foods can only be part of an effective strategy to maximize health and reduce the risk of disease by following all the principles of a healthy lifestyle. At the same time, functional foods are a type of food that has been linked to a number of substantial health advantages. They not only prevent vitamin shortages but also guard against disease and support appropriate growth and development. In addition to eating a range of healthful whole foods, you may supplement your diet with fortified foods to address nutritional gaps and promote general health.