Functional foods are foods that provide positive health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Functional foods can promote optimal health and help reduce the risk of disease. For example, Oatmeal is considered as a functional food. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol levels.
In the late twentieth century, due to rapid increasing of aging population and health care costs, more and more consumers became interested in using foods healing approach to help them maintain health and prevent diseases, help them look young and live a longevity life.
Specific foods do have specific health benefits. Some even have therapeutically benefits. This is no secret at all and it was approved approved by our ancestors and in traditional Chinese medicine. People was not able to afford to see doctors, so they used foods to help themselves to repair and heal. The elements in foods such as fiber, and calcium, b12, soy etc. are the healing power. With modern science and technology, healthy food industry is booming in the past decades.
Functional foods cover a variety of foods, including whole foods along with fortified, enriched or enhanced foods. Functional foods may include:
• Conventional foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts.
• Modified foods such as yogurt, cereals and orange juice.
The FDA provides regulation and guidance for various health and nutrient claims that may appear on labels, such as those promoting the role of dietary fiber for heart health or advertisements that a product is lite or reduced-fat. However, there’s no legal definition for functional foods, so American consumers are left to evaluate some claims on their own. Focusing on the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list on the back of a food package can help you determine if a food is a healthful choice.
Another tricky area is food fortification — when products include added vitamins and other nutrients. Fortified foods have a place in a healthy eating plan, and they may help to fill gaps in nutrient intake, but they shouldn’t replace foods that naturally contain those nutrients, when possible. For example, there are only a few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, so products that are fortified with it, such as milk, act as a source of vitamin D for many people. Other foods and beverages may be fortified with nutrients that aren’t as difficult to obtain. Some fortified products may also contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium, so be sure to review the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients.
The following are some nutrient-dense functional foods:
Sardines and Salmon These protein-packed fish are lower in mercury and have higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower risk of heart disease and improve infant health when consumed by women during pregnancy or while breast-feeding.
Nuts make a great snack. They help you feel full and may help promote heart health. Bonus: most unsalted nuts, including cashews and almonds, are good sources of magnesium, which plays a role in managing blood pressure.
Barley often overshadowed by the fame of oatmeal, barley delivers similar benefits. It’s high in dietary fiber and may help lower cholesterol and assist with blood sugar control.
Beans provide dietary fiber, as well as protein, potassium and folate. While canned beans are fine, look for those with no salt added. If you do choose beans with salt added, rinse and drain them before use, which reduces sodium significantly.
Berries in general are wonderful functional foods. Strawberries, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries, Not only are they low in calories, their anthocyanin pigments, which give them color, may offer health promoting benefits. If you can’t get fresh berries, frozen unsweetened berries make a fine alternative.