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Let food be your medicine – Hippocrates

We are all well aware that food is not just an inert substance that satisfies hunger by filling our stomach. It is full of bioactive components that can be good or bad for your body, so in that sense all food is functional. However, the term functional food is often used as a hype to sell expensive fortified products.

For this reason, it is important to establish an official definition and formal regulatory category for such foods. According to the Food and Drug Administration there is still none, but the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics define functional foods as “whole foods along with fortified, enriched or enhanced foods that have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on regular basis at effective levels based on significant standards of evidence.”

In a nutshell, functional foods are foods and beverages with a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition, and scientific evidence justifying health claims as the key ingredient!

Functional foods may be simply the conventional food, like fruits, vegetables, and cereal grain containing naturally occurring bioactive substances that have been associated with a reduction of risk of various conditions, ranging from cancer, cardiovascular diseases to high cholesterol.

Some other foods are modified by enrichment with bioactive substances to have health benefits. Fermented foods are also considered functional foods, as they contain probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that are beneficial for digestion.

Functional foods that may enhance energy expenditure or improve satiety thereby maintaining a stable body weight or assist in weight loss are also well documented. But even though we know that eggs, nuts, oat and rye enhance satiety, these sensations do not always translate into long-term reductions in energy intake or body weight.

For these reasons, it is safe to say that, as long as we are lacking the key ingredient of scientific evidence that supports utility of specific functional foods in promoting weight loss, only dietary changes that influence the whole diet (by controlling foods at every eating occasion) along with lifestyle modification that would include use of satiety-enhancing functional foods have the potential to modulate energy balance and influence body weight. In summary, the incorporation of certain foods into the diet may help promote wellness by adjusting the nutritional profile.

However, you can eat more healthily and yet observe no effect on weight loss, but it would still be a very positive functional food intervention in your life!

Bob Watts

Post Author: TBLD team