Dietitians are continually called upon for nutrition information. That's why we have worked with our staff of Registered Dietitians to create this reference guide on the emerging science of Functional Foods. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the diet-health relationship. According to a study conducted by the International Food Information Council (1998), 91% of consumers interviewed want more information on the subject of functional food components.
Scientific knowledge on the benefits of functional foods is in its infancy. However, the following table highlights some of the emerging food and food components that research studies have identified as having potential positive effects on health beyond basic nutrition.
|Breakfast & Cereal Ingredients||Functional Component||Potential Health Benefit|
|Fruit, especially those dark in colour, contain antioxidants which may limit free radical damage. Free radicals have been associated with conditions such as coronary artery disease, cancer, and other aging diseases.|
|Beta Glucan||Oats (oatmeal, oat bran) contain soluble fibre, which may help lower cholesterol levels when consumed as part of a heart healthy diet. |
Lower cholesterol levels may protect against heart disease. Soluble fibre may also slow down sugar absorption - leading to less fluctuation in blood glucose levels.
|Wheat Bran||Insoluble Fibre||Insoluble fibre has been shown to benefit colonic health by increasing fecal bulk. An increase in fecal bulk may promote regularity and have a positive effect on overall lower digestive system health.|
|Nuts - |
|Monounsaturated Fats||Nut consumption has been linked to risk reduction of coronary heart disease due to the presence of the 'good fats´ (monounsaturated fats) in nuts.|
|Flax||Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA) |
|ALA is an essential, long chain omega-3 fatty acid. Flax is a rich source of these fatty acids, which may help reduce blood triglycerides, increase HDL cholesterol, reduce blood pressure - all activities that help lower risk of coronary heart disease. Flax is also a good source of both soluble and insoluble fibre.|
|A diet rich in cranberries may help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections. This effect may be due to specific compounds (proanthocyanidins) in cranberries that may inhibit the adherence of Escherichia coli to uroepithelial cells.|
|Other Foods & Beverages||Functional Component||Potential Health Benefit|
|Green Vegetables |
|Dark, leafy vegetables contain antioxidants which may limit free radical damage. Free radicals have been associated with conditions such as coronary artery disease, cancer, and other aging diseases.|
|Tomato Products||Lycopene||Lycopene may help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and prostate cancer. Lycopene levels are higher in cooked or processed tomato products i.e. canned tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce and tomato juice.|
|Phytoestrogens||Increased soy product consumption has been correlated with decreases in total cholesterol levels, which may provide protection against the development of heart disease.|
|Tea||Polyphenols||Tea consumption has been shown in animals to help protect against chemical carcinogen-induced stomach, lung, esophagus, pancreas, liver, breast and colon cancers, due to the potential anticarcinogenic activity of polyphenols.|