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What Are Functional Foods?

Functional foods are certain foods that contain nutrients that have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition. The term “functional foods” was first introduced in Japan in the mid­ 1980s and refers to processed foods containing ingredients that aid specific bodily functions in addition to being nutritious. Advocates of functional foods will explain that they support optimal health and help minimize the risk of disease.


Turning to food as an answer for diseases was nothing new, so scientist began reporting overwhelming evidence from all types of studies indicate that a plant­based diet can reduce the risk of chronic disease, particularly cancer. A review of 200 studies (Block et al., 1992) showed that cancer risk in people consuming diets high in fruits and vegetables was 50% less than in those consuming fewer of these foods. Around the same time, other researchers identified more than a dozen classes of these biologically active plant chemicals, now known as “phytochemicals.” Now, two decades later, health professionals are speaking about the role of those phytochemicals in health enrichment, and reclassifying them as “functional foods.”

A common example of a functional food is oatmeal because it contains soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol levels as well as lignan that helps promote heart health. Some foods are modified to have health benefits. An example is orange juice that’s been fortified with calcium for bone health. The Food and – Administration (FDA) regulates the claims that manufacturers can make about functional foods’ nutrient content and effects on disease, health, or body function. If you want to try functional foods, choose wisely. And keep in mind that while functional foods may help promote wellness, they can’t make up for diets lacking overall balance.

Sources:­lifestyle/nutrition­and­healthy­eating/expert­answers/functional­foods/faq­ 20057816


Edited by: Lindsey Traudt, LCPC


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