We all know that proper nutrition is necessary for a healthy body. A diet with a variety of foods and a variety of colors will keep our bodies running well. A diet high in fiber with a lot of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates will help our bodies to run optimally. Today there is a new group of foods called functional foods, or phoods for the pharmaceutical element. Functional foods are only one aspect of diet, and diet is only one aspect of a comprehensive lifestyle approach to good health, which should include regular exercise, tobacco avoidance, maintenance of a healthy body weight, stress reduction, and other positive health practices. Functional foods can sometimes be part of an effective strategy to promote good health, but they should never be considered a substitute for other good health habits and they should never be used instead of medically prescribed therapy for any health problem.
All plant foods are functional at some physiological level; the American Dietetic Association (ADA) states that functional foods that include whole foods and fortified, enriched, or enhanced foods have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis, at effective levels. All foods have a function when consumed in proper balance as part of an overall healthy diet. Functional foods include whole foods (eg. fruits and vegetables). Those foods that have been fortified, enriched, or enhanced with nutrients, phytochemicals, or botanicals, as well as dietary supplements, also fall within the realm of functional foods. Functional foods do more than meet minimum daily nutrient requirements, they also can play a role in reducing the risk of disease and promoting good health. Functional foods provide health benefits beyond the provision of essential nutrients, when they are consumed at efficacious levels as part of a varied diet on a regular basis.
While functional foods potentially offer health benefits, it is important to keep these in perspective and that they are enjoyed in the knowledge not that they offer a magic bullet against health problems, but that they are a positive, health enhancing addition to an overall balanced diet and active lifestyle. Adding a food that contains a particular nutrient to one's diet does not necessarily mean that the nutrient will have the desired effect; issues like effective dosage also must be considered. These "functional foods" are not a substitute for a well-balanced diet, which is the cornerstone of good nutrition. While some products have merit for certain consumers, we should all remain skeptical about whether these "functional" foods are useful for everyone.
Functional foods are a current trend that has very little scientific evidence to back them up. Many food components are under investigation for their health benefits, but only few are proven. The word functional also means useful, practical or purposeful. So for a food to be termed ‘functional’ it means that it must do its’ job to provide energy, or calories, or vitamins/minerals to our bodies. If the food we are ingesting is going through the metabolic process, providing our cells with energy and keeping our bodies alive, it is a functional food, it is purposeful. Provided that there are foods that do better at disease prevention, nourishment, repair and sustained growth than others, but is this trend of functional foods just another ploy by the supplement manufacturers to sell more products? “The probiotics in yogurt are functional, but this brand of yogurt is better.” “Skip the yogurt completely and buy our tablet.” “More fruits and vegetables are great, but you don’t have to eat any if you buy are supplement.” “Eat more omega-3’s, but if you don’t like fish, buy our brand of fish oil.” If we continue to eat a well balanced diet of the foods we were eating before the trend, proper nutrition can be obtained.
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