Functional foods or nutraceuticals have an amazing nutrition profile along with powerful health benefits. These foods prevent nutrient deficiencies and protect against disease. This article is about what are functional foods, their benefits and their uses.
- Functional foods: These foods offer health benefits that are extended to being their nutritional value and help to improve our health. Example: Oats have beta-glucan (a type of fibre) that enhances immune function, improves heart health and reduces inflammation. Functional foods have 2 categories: modified and conventional.
- Modified functional foods include fortified products like milk, juices, eggs, grains, etc. that have added minerals, vitamins, fibre or probiotics to increase their health benefits.
- Conventional functional foods include natural whole foods that are rich in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and good fats like kiwi, broccoli, almonds, chia seeds, oats, turmeric, green tea, chickpeas, flax seeds, couscous, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper, kale, spinach, orange, apples, pumpkin seeds, etc.
- Functional foods help to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Example: fortification of several foods help to prevent nutrient deficiencies like Vit A and Vit D fortification of milk in India.
- As they have a high antioxidant value it helps to prevent diseases. These antioxidants prevent cell damage and chronic conditions by reducing free radical damage.
- Cereals and grains are fortified with folic acid that is very essential for fetal health, growth and development as low levels of folic acid results in neural tube defects that can affect the spine, brain or spinal cord.
- Therefore functional foods are nutrient-rich and also support the overall growth and development of our body. These foods include health-enhancing nutrients like probiotics, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre.
- They protect against diseases, prevent nutrient deficiencies and also promote required growth and development.
- One should try to include and enjoy the benefits of both whole and fortified foods to support better health or to fill any nutritional gaps in your diet.