Newspapers, books and the web publish flashy articles regarding the advantages of eating “functional foods”. These foods are said to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and coronary heart disease. Supermarkets sell breakfast cereals, probiotics like yogurt and energy bars with similar health benefits proclaimed on their packaging.
What is a functional food and how’s that different from a fortified food?
Firstly, all foods which have physiological benefits like proteins that aid in muscle repair, carbohydrates that help in gaining energy and vitamins and minerals to assist in cell function are said to be functional foods. The term ‘functional food’ was first introduced in Japan in the 1980s and refers to processed foods containing ingredients that aid in specific bodily functions in addition to being nutritious. To date, Japan is the only country that has formulated a specific regulatory approval process for functional foods and currently, 100 products are listed under this category. In America, the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board defines functional foods as “any food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains” while the category is not recognized legally.
Meanwhile, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics defines functional foods as: "whole foods along with fortified, enriched or enhanced foods that have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis at effective levels based on significant standards of evidence."
There are four categories of functional foods:
Food fortification is the process of adding micronutrients (essential trace elements and vitamins) to food. Many products now boast of these added nutrients in them. Such nutrients are said to elevate the nutritional content of a food and are also prescribed as part of a healthy diet plan.
Renowned dietitians/nutritionists worldwide suggest the given below fortified foods:
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