Functional Foods

Our web-based content on functional foods is intended to educate key regulatory, scientific, practitioner, and consumer stakeholders.  What are functional foods?  All food is functional through its provision to the body of energy and nutrients necessary for survival.  But as food and nutrition science has advanced from identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies to designing foods that promote optimal health and reduce the risk of disease, the term “functional food” has evolved into a category of a wide variety of foods and food components believed to improve overall health and well-being, reduce the risk of specific diseases, or minimize the effects of other health concerns.  These foods include, for example, the naturally healthful components in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fiber in certain breads and cereals, calcium in milk, and fortified foods and beverages such as vitamin D fortified milk.  These substances provide essential nutrients often beyond quantities necessary for normal maintenance, growth, and development.  They may provide health promoting benefits and/or disease preventing properties over and above its usual nutritional value. 

There is no universally accepted definition of this evolving food category known as functional foods; however, several working definitions have been proposed by various organizations in several countries.  IFT’s functional food experts set forth that functional foods describe foods and food components that provide essential nutrients often beyond quantities necessary for normal maintenance, growth, and development, and/or other biologically active components that impart health benefits or desirable physiological effects.

Our web-content on functional foods identifies the latest science and best practices for creating and understanding the health benefits of functional foods.  Please contact Will Fisher at 202-330-4977 or wfisher@ift.org to learn more about IFT’s functional foods science and policy initiatives.

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