Functional foods: what are they and why are they considered special?

Although it is in our diet where these types of food predominate, it was actually in Japan where this concept was born. There began a project in the early 80's to analyze what foods can have “Specific uses of health”: the so-called ‘FOSHU’ (Food for Specified Health Uses). Something that we know in our country under the name of functional foods, but what exactly are they?

These are those that, thanks to their nutrients and biological compounds, they have a positive effect on our body, they can improve our health or reduce the risk of certain diseases. But in addition to complying with this requirement in order to be called "functional foods", they must also be submitted whole. That is, supplements in the form of pills or powders are not worth it, as we mistakenly think and for what nutrition experts have complained.

Functional foods: what they are, what benefits they have and where to find them

Not only can we consider functional foods those that, in their natural state, provide valuable nutrients. Also (and especially) they are those that have been modified by adding some component that fulfills a specific function in order to improve our health. In this last category would enter those enriched: Milk with calcium, vitamin D or omega-3 fatty acids would be a good example.

The main benefit of all of them would be to provide our body with nutrients that fulfill vital functions, such as those that help contribute to growth and development (enriched milk for babies), to combat oxidative damage (those rich in antioxidants) or to improve cardiovascular health or certain functions of our body.

According to the Guide of Functional Foods of the Spanish Federation of Societies of Nutrition, Food and Dietetics (FESNAD), these are some of the functional foods that we find in our country:

– Enriched and infant milk

– Enriched yogurts

– Fermented milks

– Enriched juices

– Fortified cereals

– Iodized salt

– Enriched margarines

"Functional foods can be part of any person's diet," they point out from the Federation. "But in addition, they are especially indicated in those population groups with special nutritional needs (pregnant women and children), intolerances to certain foods, groups with risks of certain diseases (cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, osteoporosis, diabetes, etc.) and the elderly."

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