What are Functional Foods?
Functional foods can be defined as foods that contain components that impart health benefits beyond basic nutrition. The functional attributes of many traditional foods and food components are being discovered. In addition, new food products are being developed to enhance or incorporate the beneficial compounds.
Many common foods, along with specially-modified new food products, are included as being "functional foods." A few examples of functional foods are licorice, green tea, soy, flaxseed, garlic, wine, fish, fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and seeds.
Many times the terms functional foods, nutraceuticals and phytochemicals are used interchangeably. Phytochemicals are plant chemicals, usually referring to those compounds which seem to have biological effects on the body. Again, technically this would include vitamins and minerals, but usually means non-traditional compounds that do not cause a deficiency condition if not present. Examples are lycopene and isoflavones. Many of the foods listed as functional foods are functional foods because they contain a certain phytochemical.