The consumption of functional foods promotes good health in people. It also reduces the prevalence of various medical conditions. The concept of functional foods originated in Japan, which approved foods with confirmed health advantages. Functional foods, also called nutraceuticals, possess numerous health benefits. They protect from various diseases and help in the growth and development of the body. Conventional and fortified or modified foods are the two types of functional foods. Natural foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are also considered functional foods. They are nutritious and contain vitamins, minerals, and good fats. The antioxidants present in the fruits help enhance the immune function of the body. The fortified food with certain modifications in its nutritional content is the best example of functional food. The added ingredients in the fortified foods increase their nutritive value significantly. Functional foods have brought a rich sense of health and wellness among consumers. Studies need to create more awareness about functional foods among people. This allows people to control their overall health and prevent illness. The dietary changes reflect the good physical and mental state of an individual. As a result, the focus is shifted from choosing the right type of functional foods to making people feel good about themselves.
Functional foods have to be included in the daily diet as a part of a healthy lifestyle. It helps maintain a balanced diet and supports overall well-being. The additional nutritious ingredients present in the fortified foods cover the gaps in the diet. Functional food also boosts the supplementation of vital nutrients in the body. Some functional foods available in the market are probiotics, energy drinks, fat reduction meat, enriched eggs, weight loss, and weight gain drinks, prebiotics, and barley-based products. Certain functional foods help in the slower uptake of glucose into the blood. The absorption of glucose at a slow pace controls the blood sugar fluctuations in people. As a result of slower glucose absorption, the demand for insulin release reduces in the body. The type of carbohydrate present in the food, the presence of dietary fibers, and saturated fatty acids influence the absorption rate of glucose by the cells. Foods with a low glycemic index (GI) have to be consumed to reduce the rate of glucose uptake in the body. These include sourdough, legumes, whole grain bread and pasta, and products enriched with soluble fibers. Oats are considered a type of functional food. The dietary fiber present in the oatmeal reduces blood cholesterol levels and reduces cardiac diseases in people. Functional foods have numerous health benefits, which make their consumption reliable in the present and future. The following are the potential benefits of functional foods:
Prevention of nutrient deficiencies
Protection against disease
Enhances growth, development, mental state, and performance
Exhibits anti-tumor activity
Excellent source of antioxidants
Energy balance regulation
The Future Perspectives of Functional Foods
Functional food is a branch of science that is still in the early process of development. The popularity of functional food usage increases after understanding its associated advantages. The technology will then play a role in making such foods easily available to a greater set of population. Educating the people about its nutritive values will also help them increase the consumption of functional foods. These factors assist in the future development of functional foods. People suffering from a health condition can choose functional foods to overcome its harmful effects. For example, people suffering from cardiac disease can consume foods that reduce the risk of such conditions. In this way, functional foods can be chosen to suit the specific needs of an individual. The physiological factors adversely affect the genetic constituent of the cells. The genetic factors of an individual are responsible for the prevalence of various medical conditions. The techniques employed to study and understand this concept are collectively known as “omics.” Omics include genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. Genetic factors are closely related to the prevalence of a disease in an individual. There exists a mutual relationship between functional foods and omics. Hence it is better to include functional foods in the daily regimen for better health. People now understand the effect of food consumed on their overall health. The increased interest in the diet and health among people has potentially increased the demand for functional foods across the globe. Increased awareness of the advantages of functional foods has to be provided to the consumers to make informed choices. Consumers who are conscious of their health have started to choose functional foods to control their health. The health benefits of functional foods have to be backed up by a research study and should be effectively communicated to the people. It is a challenge for scientists to prove the associated health benefits of functional foods on public health.