What are functional foods?

You may hear the phrase “functional foods” as it increases as a trend.

The term “functional food” is becoming common terminology in food trends. One definition for functional foods is a natural or processed food that contains known biologically-active compounds which are defined in absolute amounts. Another translation is, food given additional functions (often related to health promotion or disease prevention by adding new ingredients or, more of existing ingredients). These foods may help prevent disease, reduce the risk of developing disease or enhance health. Most foods are functional in some way; however “functional foods” have a potential ability to positively affect health.

Examples of enhanced foods are calcium-rich orange juice, eggs enhanced with omega-3 fatty acids and grains with added fiber. Oats, soy, garlic, grapes and flaxseed are examples of whole functional foods that help maintain and/or reduce heart disease, cholesterol and hypertension.

The uses of nutritional supplements are being replaced by consumers with more functional foods that include more nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fish, oil, omega-3s. Consumers are increasingly referring to food labels, seeking out more simple, real and natural ingredients. Functional foods are thought to help prevent or delay the start of heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis and Type 2 diabetes.

Many people looking to lose weight are now including whole, nutrient dense foods in their diet. Whole grains, fiber, and vitamin D are some of the most important ingredients that consumers are using to manage their weight. Michigan State University Extension recommends eating a variety of foods and following the U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate guidelines of balance and increased fruits and vegetables.

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