Due to the sedentary lifestyle, fast development in the technology industry, use of pesticides, heavy metals and excessive use of agriculture tools, environmental pollution, higher risk for all diseases like cancers, metabolic disorders, and obesity etc., India faces a double burden of obesity and under nutrition. Therefore, interest in using foods that would improve the health and well being is fast growing in India.
we select foods not only for their taste and nutritional value, but also in terms of their ability to improve our health and well-being. Functional foods can be defined as foods that besides providing nutrients also affect specific functions in the body and hence have special benefits for health, well-being, or performance. They may be whole, fortified, enriched, or enhanced foods. They can be commercially produced or can be natural.
Natural functional foods:
Garlic has a compound known by the name of Allicin, which gives the medicinal properties to this wonder herb. It strengthens up the natural defence and improves the immune system which helps in the prevention of cancer, heart disease and hypertension and decreases platelet aggregation.
Ginger contains at least 12 anti-aging constituents that inactivate free radicals and reduces inflammation, it is also a good source of dietary fiber.
Green tea contains antioxidant which helps in the prevention of cancers and weight loss.
Fenugreek has very powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which help in controlling heart disease, blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
Millets and whole grains are rich in fibers and are good in the prevention of certain cancers, heart disease and are looked as body cleansers; oats are rich in cholesterol lowering soluble fiber called beta-glucan.
Omega3 fatty acid: Fatty fish contains omega 3 fats and is good for the prevention of coronary artery disease, as it helps in increasing the HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood, decrease triglyceride levels, and slows down the development of plaque . Sources of omega 3 fatty acids are Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and tuna and flax seeds for vegetarians.
Phytochemicals: Fruits and Vegetables are rich in polyphenols, vitamins and fiber. They help in prevention of cancers, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are associated with decreased cancer risk. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene which is an antioxidant. Lycopene helps in strengthening the immune system and has disease fighting ability. Cooking of tomatoes in curries, soups or ketchup liberates this component even more making it more effective. Citrus Fruits are protective against a variety of human cancers.
Probiotics: Addition of probiotics is good for the prevention of certain cancers, is anti-inflammatory and helps in the prevention of gastrointestinal disorders and boost immunity. It is good for digestive health.
Antioxidants: Strawberries are a rich source of phytonutrients and antioxidants that give immunity and have anti-inflammatory properties that fight cancers, heart disease and are health boosters. Cocoa is a rich source of antioxidant known as polyphenols and flavonoids which are anti-ageing and also protects us from heart disease.
MUFA (Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids) lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels without negatively affecting the HDL (good) cholesterol. It promotes heart health and might help prevent cancer and a host of other ailments and help to normalize blood sugar level. Sources are Canola oil, Olive Oil, Rice bran Oil and Ground nut. Almonds and walnuts are good in antioxidants and MUFA .
Polyphenols: Red wine has antioxidant ‘Resveratrol’ which minimizes certain cancers, prevents many degenerative disorders especially of the brain. Purple grapes contain polyphenolic compounds that support normal healthy cardiovascular function.
Phytoestrogens: Soya is a rich source of phytoestrogens ,proteins and fiber, reduces total cholesterol , LDL cholesterol and triglycerides levels, increases HDL cholesterol levels and is good for reducing post menopausal symptoms in women.
Commercial functional foods:
These functional food products result from: technological innovation at the processing level, such as cholesterol lowering spreads, and dairy products fermented with specific lactic acid bacteria; technological innovation at the production level such as genetically modified crop seed (e.g., Golden rice) etc.
Fortified Juices/drinks, gluten free products, lactose free products, soy based products, energy bars and fortified milk shakes, cereals with added fiber (Atta Mixes) Sprouted cereals /pulses, products containing supplements are booming in the market.
These foods and beverages are personalised to manage certain health conditions and are the future of the functional foods for the health and well-being of people.