Author (Monica Mahajan, Mehak Rishi)
Functional foods are the foods that are thought to provide benefits beyond basic nutrition and may play a role in reducing or minimizing the risk of certain diseases and other health conditions. Research has demonstrated that there are many potential health benefits from food components and that, nutrition plays a crucial role in the prevention of chronic diseases, as most of them can be related to diet. Studies have pointed out that not only pre- and probiotics, but also single micronutrients incorporated into functional foods contribute to an enhancement of immunocompetence. These foods include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fortified foods& beverages and some dietary supplements. Some examples of functional components present in foods are Beta-carotene in carrots that neutralize free radicals; Lutein and Zeaxanthin in spinach support maintenance of eye health; beta glucan (in oatmeal), soluble fiber (in citrus fruits) and whole grains may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease; flavonoids (in berries, citrus fruits) for maintenance of healthy brain function and heart health. Minerals, plant sterols, pre and probiotics, soy proteins and vitamins are some other examples. Functional foods/ Nutraceuticals are an important part of an overall healthful life style that includes a balanced diet and physical activity. Nutraceutical is a product isolated or purified from foods that is generally sold in medicinal forms not usually associated with food. Nutraceutical are the substances which are not traditionally recognized nutrients but which have positive physiological effects on the human body. Risk of toxicity or adverse effect of drugs led us to consider safer nutraceutical and functional food based approaches for the health management. However, not all foods on the market today that are claimed to be functional foods are supported by enough solid data to merit such claims. For benefits to be validated and claims to be made a strong and reliable body of credible scientific research is needed to confirm the benefits of any particular food or component. For their potential public health benefits, consumers must be able to rely on the scientific criteria that are used to document health statements and claims of functional foods.