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I've read a lot about "functional foods" lately. What is a "functional food?"

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) defines functional foods as foods that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. In other words, functional foods contain biologically active compounds that are in addition to traditional nutrients. Whole foods such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains represent the simplest example of a functional food. For example, broccoli, carrots, or tomatoes would be considered functional foods because in addition to carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals, they also contain antioxidants which can help prevent heart disease and cancer. Cranberries are rich in vitamin C, but they also contain a specific compound that can help prevent urinary tract infections.

Functional foods also include those that have been fortified with nutrients or enhanced with herbs.

Barbara Willenberg, Nutritional Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia.


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Last updated:06/17/2015
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