Healthy Living

Functional Foods: What Are They And Why Do We Need Them?

In the past few years, functional foods have gained traction within health and wellness circles, eventually securing itself a place in the current food trends that anyone can follow today. But what exactly are these functional foods? Do we really need them?

Role of Functional Foods

With the concept originally blossoming in Japan sometime in the 1980s, functional foods are essentially ingredients that provide health benefits that can extend beyond their basic nutritional value. And in true “functional food” fashion, some of these contain additional ingredients or even supplements that give them an extra boost when it comes to helping us improve our health.

Some functional food examples include those that have been fortified with probiotics, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Of course, nutrient-rich ingredients like nuts, seeds, grains, fruits and vegetables are also generally considered as functional foods.

Other examples include green tea, turmeric, cinnamon, salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, oats, barley, brown rice, black beans, chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts and black tea.

There are also modified functional foods, which include fortified cereals, fortified eggs, fortified juices, fortified dairy products and fortified milk alternatives such as coconut, cashew and almond milk.

As such, functional foods are associated with tons of potential health benefits. Here are some of them:

  1. May protect against disease – Functional foods provide important nutrients that can help stave off disease. One such example is the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, among others.
  2. May prevent nutrient deficiencies – This is because functional foods contain lots of nutrients that we need on a daily basis, such as healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals. This ensures that all our daily nutritional needs are met, ensuring maximum health.
  3. May promote proper growth and development – Functional foods also give the added benefit of having nutrients that can encourage proper growth and development. For example, fortified cereals and grains may have folic acid and other B vitamins, which are essential for the growth and development of infants. Other nutrients that play a similar role include zinc, vitamin B12, calcium and iron.

Fruits and Vegetables Fruits and vegetables. Pixabay