Functional foods are gaining popularity as consumers become increasingly aware of the link between diet and health. Since all foods have certain functions and nutritional components, what makes functional foods different?
Functional foods are conventional foods to which specific essential nutrients and/or food components are added for a targeted physiological function. Because of this, these foods have the potential to provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition. Functional foods can help fulfill nutrient deficiencies and may provide essential nutrients beyond quantities necessary for normal maintenance, growth, and development. They can also provide other bioactive components that impart health benefits or desirable physiological effects.
Nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and seafood are often considered functional foods. In addition, food scientists have developed fortified, enriched, or enhanced foods such as calcium-rich orange juice, milk fortified with Vitamin D, and grains with added fiber that are also considered functional foods.
When consumed as part of a healthy diet, functional foods may: