Can Eating Functional Foods Improve Your Health?

Different Fortified Food Products

 "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."                                                                               — Hippocrates

Whether they provide an appealing aroma, a satisfied taste or important nutrients, all foods are functional... at least based on the prophetic observations of the Father of Modern Medicine. Plus, researchers and dieticians have known for decades that certain foods may be especially beneficial or detrimental to one's health. However, the definition of "functional" when combined with "food" changed forever when the Japanese government created a regulatory approval process in the 80s for foods that contain ingredients (in addition to known nutrients) that were added to specifically aid bodily functions.

There is little doubt that certain foods that contain additives offer some health advantages. In the United States for example, a grain-rich soluble fiber called psyllium has been added to several brands of cereal to reduce cholesterol for branding as a "Heart Healthy" food product. An early example of a functional food was the fortification of table salt with iodine supplementation. Although iodine deficiencies had been diagnosed many years earlier in the U.S., iodized salt wouldn't be commercially available until the early 20s, which did pre-date Japan's regulatory statutes. Additionally, in 1932 milk was fortified with vitamin D to help reduce the occurrence of rickets in children, which was followed by B vitamins being added to flour and breads in the early 40s.

Like many multivitamin supplements, fortified functional foods have become a popular addition to the diets of many people in the western world, especially seniors and children. But, there is still a lot to be learned about how these designer foods might impact future generations considering the recommended vitamin intakes are not being met by a high percentage of the world's population. Folic acid (folate) supplementation to help prevent congenital defects, reduce the risk of cancers and heart disease as well as slow cognitive impairment is actively being debated today.

To learn more about nutrient supplementation and adding functional foods to your menu plan, contact the pros at Metabolic Research Center.


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