Eating a balanced diet is the ideal way to ensure adequate consumption of vitamins and minerals, but the majority of consumers simply do not eat a variety of foods—especially fruits and vegetables. Besides they don’t want to take pills for nutrient delivery. As a result there has been a rise in functional foods that have tried to bridge some specific dietary gaps.
Functional Foods is a term used to describe foods or their ingredients, that may provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition. These foods may include whole foods (fruits & vegetables) as well as fortified orange juice with calcium, enriched or enhanced foods & dietary supplements that have a beneficial effect on health.
Examples of foods for which research has shown health benefits include:
There’s no doubt that functional foods’ role in reducing the risk of diseases is promising, but a lot of research is still needed to prove efficacy. Traditional foods should be the basis for future functional foods, with a focus on enhancing their natural components through fortification. Future examples may include adding omega-3-fatty acids to cheese and to eggs (currently omega eggs are being piloted in Midwest), and B-vitamins and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) to milk.
ADA has presented a summary of select functional foods and the scientific evidence supporting their health benefit(s). Click here to know more.