I was tempted to write about fig or fennel for the alphabet F. But then I thought of writing about functional foods as I think this will be useful for a large number of readers. 

There is a direct link between diet and health and most of us are aware of it. A food with an additional advantage related to improvement in health, disease prevention, or is designed to have physiological benefits is called functional food. This is done by adding new ingredients or increasing the existing ingredients. They may be similar in appearance to conventional food and consumed as part of a regular diet. For example - purple or red potatoes have increased carotenoid contents. Another example is orange juice that's been fortified with calcium for bone health.

The term “Functional Food” was first used in the 1980s in Japan, when the government approved the process for functional foods called Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU).  The Japanese government created a new class of "functional foods" for additional health benefits beyond those covered by basic nutrition to improve the health of its citizens.

Functional foods cover a variety of foods  - minimally processed, whole foods along with fortified, enriched foods. When products have added vitamins and other nutrients, they are named fortified foods. For example, there are only a few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, so it is added to some other food items. This addition is named “fortified”. Milk is a rich source of calcium but has no Vitamiv D. Vitamin D is added to milk and we say that milk is fortified with Vit D and this fortified milk becomes the main source of vitamin D for many people. These are found to show beneficial effect on health when consumed on a regular basis and at certain levels. 

Please note that fortified products may also contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium, so be sure to review the Nutrition Facts label. 

I shall be exploring Indian cuisines regarding functional foods.

With its rich culture and biodiversity, India has varied food patterns in different regions. Indian diets contain combinations of cereals, millets, pulses, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and spices. These foods are rich sources of not only vital nutrients but of health beneficial phytochemicals, dietary fiber, antioxidants, probiotics also. This diversity earns Indian foods the status of functional foods. Traditional Indian meal patterns differ from region to region, but all contain a wide range of foods, normally including from each food group. The combinations of foods used in the traditional Indian meals are ideal and complement each other in terms of nutrients as well as nonnutrient bioactive compounds. 

The curative effect of food has been a traditionally established belief for many generations in India. The traditional Indian diet comes under “functional fods” due to high amounts of dietary fiber (whole grains and vegetables), antioxidants (spices, fruits, and vegetables), and probiotics (curds and fermented batter products), which are good for health. 

Many Indian  traditional foods  have  found beneficial on human  physiology besides providing sufficient  nutrition. The health  benefits may range from improving physiological functions such as gastrointestinal health, immune system, weight management, and skeletal health. They also help to reduce bloodcholesterol, oxidative stress, the risk of cardiovascular diseases, infammatory diseases, various types of cancers,  possible prevention of diabetes, and neuro-degenerative diseases.

A dietary ingredient that affects positive effects on health can be classied as a “functional” ingredient.

The Indian traditional foods include dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, oligosaccharides, lignins, essential fatty acids, flavonoids, lactic acid and bacterial cultures.  These functional  ingredients are abundantly  available in  foods  such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, nuts, and milk and milk-based products.

If you want to try functional foods, choose wisely. And keep in mind that while functional foods may help promote wellness, they can't make up for poor eating habits. A healthful eating style, which includes a variety of foods from each food group, prepared in a healthful way, can help you meet your nutrient needs and reduce your risk for various chronic diseases. Focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein foods and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. 

I am participating in #BlogchatterA2Z .

Other posts of the challenge can be found here.