What Are Functional Foods?

What are functional foods? You hear all about them these days in the news. Food companies are making top dollar off of these foods that are helping people maintain their health.

Functional foods are, in a nutshell, foods that do double or triple duty within your body. Here is an example. An apple is loaded with fiber and other vitamins. Apple juice doesn’t have exactly the same benefits.

If you don’t have time for an apple, will apple juice do? It will if it is a part of the functional food set. Drinking apple juice that has been fortified with calcium, Vitamin A and other antioxidants is like getting a bonus in every eight ounce glass.

People are looking to functional foods to get the nutrients that they otherwise miss during the day. In essence, it is almost impossible to get the recommended daily requirements of many essential nutrients without a little help. No one wants to pop supplement pills all day. So, these special foods are a great alternative.

Best of all, it seems that the experts are behind this too. Receiving extra nutrition through functional foods is better than not getting them at all. In fact, many are getting nutrients that they weren’t getting before. If you don’t like bananas, you may be lacking a significant source of potassium. Instead of taking a supplement, try foods that have potassium added.

You don’t have to look too far to find these foods. Essential nutrients are being added to everything from juice to pastas. It’s almost harder to find something that is not fortified these days.

With functional foods there also comes a responsibility. Your body can’t rely on these foods alone. When it comes to juices, they still have more calories than eating an apple. You could be ingesting more calories to try to get these nutrients if you aren’t careful. Natural food sources are lower in fat and calories.

What is suggested is that the functional foods act as your supplements for many vitamins and minerals. Don’t neglect fresh fruits, whole grains and vegetables. They are still the best source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron and others like the B-complex vitamins. When you can’t eat enough of these foods to get what you need, use your functional sources to take up the slack.

Also, natural food sources are more filling. Eating a sweet potato gives you the needed vitamins, but also the starch of a root vegetable that will hold you longer between meals than say a slice of bread fortified with calcium.

Functional foods have gotten the “thumbs up” from dieticians and other health professionals. But, use them as needed with your natural foods taking the lead in providing the healthy nutrition that you need.