Thursday, 24 May 2018

Functional Foods: Everything you need to know about

Functional Foods

By the terms "functional foods or nutraceuticals", we have characterized in recent years all those foods that are naturally (ie. foods of our daily diet, non-genetically modified) or enriched, which according to studies and official scientific findings, specific beneficial effects on one or more health parameters. They are foods that every consumer can buy and which contain at least a nutrient that affects a certain function of the organism. These foods have typically been supplemented with vitamins, trace elements and other specific substances with a specific activity, e.g. sterols, ω3 fatty acids, probiotics.

Functional foods in general:

  • either has been modified to increase their content to any ingredient that gives them the benefit to the health of the consumer (eg. ω3 enriched  and low cholesterol eggs due to modified feed quality in chickens)
  • either has been enriched with a new health-enhancing ingredient (dairy enrichment with calcium or iron)
  • either has been replaced or even completely removed of an ingredient which is considered harmful (eg. removing saturated fat from a sausage and adding olive oil)
  • or finally, they have been enriched with an ingredient that helps to maintain the beneficial effects of eating the functional food. 

They are foods that:

1) either help improve health and well-being (eg. by lowering cholesterol, preventing osteoporosis by regulating blood pressure)

2) play an important role in preventing or reducing the risk of certain diseases (cancer, diabetes, coronary artery disease, hypertension) due to the presence of certain substances in them

3) or they can improve mental and physical well-being, always when consumed in a balanced diet and by specific groups of the general population who need them.

The specially modified compositions of the various functional foods in the above ways have a healthy effect on physiological functions such as better digestion, blood lipid reduction, better intestinal function, cancer prevention and improvements in metabolic rates, blood pressure, energy levels, etc.. These are foods designed in this way by industry, with the contribution of nutrition science, in order to provide a health benefit beyond the nutrients they contain (macronutrients or micronutrients), which, of course, are necessary for our organization. The main feature and the pursuit of the Industry are, of course, that these products have the same appearance, flavor, and taste as the conventional ones so that they can be consumed more easily by the buyer.

Advantages of functional foods

  • Promote health and enhance the quality of life.
  • Strengthen the body's defense system.
  • Contribute to reducing many diseases.
  • They fill an inadequate and unbalanced diet of special populations in the general population.
  • Contribute to reducing the cost of healthcare.

In conclusion, these foods are clearly an alternative nutritional solution but should be consumed with great care. Even better, the prospective consumer should consult a specialist (eg. his dietician) so that he is sure he or she needs this food and that this is considered beneficial to his case.