Functional foods:

Foods that promote health benefits

Functional foods are designer foods with effects that extend beyond basic nutrition. They can serve to prevent certain illnesses, strengthen the immune system, or promote good digestion. Such health effects are acheived by adding certain active substances. Another term for such a food can be "nutraceutical" (nutrition and pharmaceutical).

Examples of functional foods:

  • Probiotic foods (probiotics): Usually yogurt and other fermented dairy products containing special lactobacilli that are less sensitive to gastric acid and bile salts. Thus, more bacteria reach the intestine than with yogurts containing "conventional" bacterial strains. In the intenstine, they are though to crowd out unwanted or even pathogenic microorganisms, thereby improving the whole intestinal flora.
  • Margarine with plant sterols (phytosterols): These substances help lower cholesterol levels.  

So far, there is no binding defenition of functional foods. If a health benefit can be scientifically proven, the term functional food can be used for marketing.

In principle, it is possible to genetically modify plants to produce substances beneficial to human health. Such plants could produce substances previously not found in the plant, or in quantities that were otherwise not possible. 


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