Functional food or medicinal food is any healthy or fictional food claimed to have a health-promoting or disease-preventing property beyond the basic function of supplying nutrients. The general category of functional foods includes processed food or foods fortified with health-promoting additives, like “vitamin-enriched” products. Fermented foods with live cultures are considered as functional foods with probiotic benefits.
Functional foods are an emerging field in food science due to their increasing popularity with health-conscious consumers.
The term was first used in Japan in the 1980s where there is a government approval process for functional foods called Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU).
The functional food industry, consisting of food, beverage and supplement sectors, is one of the several areas of the food industry that is experiencing fast growth in recent yearsIt is estimated by BCC Research that the global market of functional food industry will reach 176.7 billion in 2013 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.4%. Specifically, the functional food sector will experience 6.9% CAGR, the supplement sector will rise by 3.8% and the functional beverage sector will be the fastest growing segment with 10.8% CAGR. This kind of growth is fueled not only by industrial innovation and development of new products that satisfy the demand of health conceious consumers but also by health claims covering a wide range of health issues.Yet, consumer skepticism persists mainly due to the fact that benefits associated with consuming the products may be difficult to be detected. The industry suggests the establishment of a health claim regulating agency, which may increase consumer confidence. It should be noted that strict examination of some of the functional food claims may discourage some companies from launching their products.
Ginger Adds More Than Just Taste
It is commonly believed that spices were added to foods before refrigeration and other forms of preservation became common, as a way of masking the taste of foods that had started to spoil. Many voyages of discovery were undertaken to find sources of these valuable plants and herbs.
Ginger [Zingiber officinale Roscoe (Zingiberaceae)] is well known in many tropical countries, both for its taste enhancing properties and also as a traditional medicine. It is the ginger tuber that is used by cooks around the world to add that distinctive taste to food.
Ginger is a low-growing tropical plant which is easily grown indoors. A small piece of a mature ginger root can be used to start a new plant. Once it is placed in a pot with good potting soil, the pot should be kept warm and constantly moist during the growing season, since ginger naturally often grows in wet, almost marshy, conditions.
Traditionally ginger has been used to help relieve digestive upset/disturbances including lack of appetite, nausea, digestive spasms, indigestion, dyspepsia and flatulent colic (carminative) as well as an expectorant and anti-tussive to help relieve bronchitis as well as coughs and colds.
Ginger contains several nonvolatile pungent principles namely gingerols, shogaols, paradols and zingerone, which contribute to its taste and which account for many of its reported beneficial health effects. Studies conducted in cultured cells as well as in experimental animals revealed that these pungent phenolics found in ginger possess anticarcinogenic properties.
So, some spices not only make your food taste good, they also are good for your health.
Food as medicine
Considered a father of Western medicine, Hippocrates advocated the healing effects of food.
The Egyptians, Chinese, and Sumerians are just a few civilizations that have provided evidence suggesting that foods can be effectively used as medicine to treat and prevent disease. Documents hint that the medicinal benefits of food have been explored for thousands of years . Hippocrates, considered by some to be the father of Western medicine, said that people should “Let food be thy medicine.”
The modern nutraceutical market began to develop in Japan during the 1980s. In contrast to the natural herbs and spices used as folk medicine for centuries throughout Asia, the nutraceutical industry has grown alongside the expansion and exploration of modern technology.
New research conducted among food scientists show that there is more to food science than what was understood just a couple decades ago. Until just recently, analysis of food was limited to the flavor of food (sensory taste and texture) and its nutritional value (composition of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, water, vitamins and minerals). However, there is growing evidence that other components of food may play an integral role in the link between food and health.
These chemical components are derived from plant, food, and microbial sources, and provide medicinal benefits valuable to long-term health. Examples of these nutraceutical chemicals include probiotics, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
Nutraceutical products were considered alternative medicine for many years. Nutraceuticals have become a more mainstream supplement to the diet, now that research has begun to show evidence that these chemicals found in food are often effective when processed effectively and marketed correctly.
Classification of nutraceuticals
Nutraceuticals is a broad umbrella term used to describe any product derived from food sources that provides extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods. Products typically claim to prevent chronic diseases, improve health, delay the aging process, and increase life expectancy.
There is minimal regulation over which products are allowed to display the nutraceutical term on their labels. Because of this, the term is often used to market products with varying uses and effectiveness. The definition of nutraceuticals and related products often depend on the source. Members of the medical community desire that the nutraceutical term be more clearly established in order to distinguish between the wide varieties of products out there. There are multiple different types of products that fall under the category of nutraceuticals.