Functional ingredients are ingredients that are believed to promote health, wellness and boost energy. While the idea of functional ingredients can seem like a complicated concept, it’s actually relatively simple. The basic idea is this: for centuries, our ancestors have believed that certain plants can have healing powers. In recent years, that experience has combined with modern research and has enabled us to isolate the active ingredients in plants with potential benefits. These ingredients are known as functional ingredients, sometimes referred to as phytonutrients and nutraceuticals. By being able to isolate these ingredients, we can better utilize them and get more of their nutritional benefits. 

The Demand for Functional Foods and Functional Ingredients

It has become increasingly popular to take a holistic view of wellness and nutrition. As research and experience have highlighted the importance of a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet, there has been an increased demand for foods that are nutrient-rich and that contribute to that lifestyle. Instead of looking to pills or chemicals for important nutrients or minerals, there is a push for more functional foods and for foods that are rich in functional ingredients. Specifically, many individuals are looking for foods that support digestive health and cognitive health; that can support the body’s healthy anti-inflammatory response; that help promote the body’s immune, cardiovascular and skin health; and that can assist with healthy weight management. 

Examples of Functional Foods and Functional Ingredients

Functional foods have ingredients that are believed to have potential health benefits beyond the nutrition that the food itself provides. Functional ingredients are certain naturally occurring nutrients that are believed to have benefits in promoting health and energy.  The amazing thing about functional ingredients is that they can be used to enhance your diet making healthier eating easier and more accessible. Some of the most popular functional ingredients include: 

Meats, Eggs, and Nuts

  • These foods all have protein in common.
  • They assist in promoting a healthy metabolism and sustaining muscle mass while losing weight. 
  • They also combat age-related muscle loss (which can begin in women as early as their 30s and men as early as their 40s).

Yogurt, Fiber, and Cereals

  • This group of foods has a probiotic functional ingredient in common.
  •  They are commonly used to support digestive health and immune health by promoting  “good” gut bacteria.

Berries, Vegetables, and Teas

  • These functional foods all contain botanical extracts.
  • These boost energy, support a healthy anti-inflammatory response, and support skin health.
  •  They can help manage focus and improve memory. 
  • These foods also help manage stress and promote relaxation.

Fish, Olive Oil, and Avocado

  • These foods all contain fatty acids, a key functional ingredient. 
  • They support the health of the cardiovascular system. 
  • They provide nutrients that can regulate the balance of good and bad cholesterol. 

Finishing Up

Now that you know the importance of eating functional foods, it’s a good idea to start looking for functional ingredients and using them when you’re cooking at home. And when purchasing foods, try to find companies that are committed to using functional ingredients. It’s a simple way to make sure that you’re consistently giving your body the best ingredients and getting the most out of what you eat.