As opposed to nutritious food, functional foods have specific, targeted benefits for one or more organ systems in the body. They prevent or delay the onset of several chronic ailments and are efficient antioxidants and metal chelators that can reduce metal overload in the blood. They also have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antiviral, anti-carcinogenic, antithrombotic, and hepatoprotective effects that can prevent damage to the liver.
A diet comprising of vegetables, fruits, spices, seeds, herbs, and medicinal plants can prevent free radical formation, which causes tissue damage. Vegetables like amla, wheatgrass, and soya bean have anti-tumor properties.1 And meat and meat products are healthy options with functional attributes.2 Let us now look into some of the functional foods, their benefits for the body and how they are better than nutritious foods.
Functional Foods Versus Nutritional Foods
Functional foods are better than nutritious foods because they contain physiologically active food components like phytochemicals that provide numerous health benefits beyond basic nutrition. They can target specific functions in the body, can reduce metal overload in the blood, and thereby reduce the free radical formation that is responsible for diseases like cancer. They are known for their antioxidant benefits in removing all toxic waste from the body.
These foods are different from drugs that are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, treatment, and prevention of diseases. They are also responsible for the maintenance and improvement of health while making the body immune to diseases.3
Focus On Whole Functional Foods And Cereals
Whole and fortified foods provide many more health benefits than just the nutrients, comprising vitamins and minerals. They are more cost-effective than dietary supplements and can reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Examples include buckwheat, which is rich in antioxidants and has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties.4
Higher intake of a diet comprising whole grains reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.5 You can include cereals in the diet for their functional benefits as they improve the physiological functions and stimulate the growth of probiotic microorganisms through fermentation.6
Turmeric As A Powerful Functional Food
This magic ingredient is a powerful functional food that can effectively control cancer and inflammation. Turmeric is capable of regulating the blood glucose levels. Curcumin, the yellow pigment present in the rhizome of turmeric, is an antioxidant and possesses anticarcinogenic, anti-fungal, immunomodulatory, and anti-mutagenic properties.
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, this spice is used in the treatment of inflammatory diseases like rheumatism, sinusitis, cough, and postoperative inflammation in the body. It does not have any toxic effects even at higher doses.7 Turmeric milk, also called as golden milk, is a tasty beverage that can boost the immunity and has got amazing health benefits for your body.
Veggies, Fruits, Seeds, Spices, And Medicinal Herbs
Veggies and fruits are rich in phytochemicals, which have strong antioxidant and anticancer properties. No single supplement can replace the combination of the variety of phytochemicals found in fruits and veggies. For example, natural flavonoids present in apples have the antioxidant potential, balance the enzyme secretion, and are responsible for improved memory and motor function. Grapes reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Cranberry juice is effective in treating urinary tract infections.8
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli decrease cancer risk. Onion, ginger, chilies, carrots, tomatoes, and curry leaves are some of the vegetables with many functional attributes. Vegetables like Indian gooseberry, wheatgrass, and soya bean have antitumor effects.9 Herbs like garlic and medicinal herbs like bixa Orellana have anti-tumor effects.10 And seeds like flax seed and spices like clove, cinnamon, mustard, and fenugreek are powerful antioxidants with many health benefits.11
Dairy Products And Meat
Fermented dairy products are rich in probiotics and benefit the good microflora of the gut. They are the best sources of calcium, which can prevent osteoporosis and colon cancer.12
Meat and meat products contain important nutrients like selenium and iron, fatty acids, minerals, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and bioactive peptides. They are responsible for the prevention of diseases associated with metabolic syndrome and to improve mental health.13
|↑1||Lobo, Vijaya, Avinash Patil, A. Phatak, and Naresh Chandra. “Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health.” Pharmacognosy reviews 4, no. 8 (2010): 118.|
|↑2||Jiménez-Colmenero, F., J. Carballo, and S. Cofrades. “Healthier meat and meat products: their role as functional foods.” Meat science 59, no. 1 (2001): 5-13.|
|↑3||Wildman, Robert EC, ed. Handbook of nutraceuticals and functional foods. CRC press, 2016.|
|↑4||Giménez-Bastida, Juan Antonio, and Henryk Zieliński. “Buckwheat as a functional food and its effects on health.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 63, no. 36 (2015): 7896-7913.|
|↑5||Liu, Rui Hai. “Whole grain phytochemicals and health.” Journal of Cereal Science 46, no. 3 (2007): 207-219.|
|↑6||Charalampopoulos, D., R. Wang, S. S. Pandiella, and C. Webb. “Application of cereals and cereal components in functional foods: a review.” International journal of food microbiology 79, no. 1 (2002): 131-141.|
|↑7||Chattopadhyay, Ishita, Kaushik Biswas, Uday Bandyopadhyay, and Ranajit K. Banerjee. “Turmeric and curcumin: Biological actions and medicinal applications.” CURRENT SCIENCE-BANGALORE- 87 (2004): 44-53.|
|↑8||Rice-Evans, Catherine A., and Lester Packer, eds. Flavonoids in health and disease. CRC Press, 2003.|
|↑9||Hasler, Clare M. “Functional foods: their role in disease prevention and health promotion.” FOOD TECHNOLOGY-CHAMPAIGN THEN CHICAGO- 52 (1998): 63-147.|
|↑10||Li, Min, Jing-Rong Ciu, Ying Ye, Ji-Mei Min, Li-He Zhang, Kui Wang, Michèle Gares, Jean Cros, Michel Wright, and Jeanne Leung-Tack. “Antitumor activity of Z-ajoene, a natural compound purified from garlic: antimitotic and microtubule-interaction properties.” Carcinogenesis 23, no. 4 (2002): 573-579.|
|↑11||Oomah, B. Dave. “Flaxseed as a functional food source.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 81, no. 9 (2001): 889-894.|
|↑12||Granato, Daniel, Gabriel F. Branco, Adriano Gomes Cruz, José de Assis Fonseca Faria, and Nagendra P. Shah. “Probiotic dairy products as functional foods.” Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 9, no. 5 (2010): 455-470.|
|↑13||Lafarga, Tomas, and Maria Hayes. “Bioactive peptides from meat muscle and by-products: generation, functionality and application as functional ingredients.” Meat science 98, no. 2 (2014): 227-239.|