What Are Functional Foods?

What Are Functional Foods?

September 30, 2019

People are increasingly interested in prioritising health and fitness these days, and with the internet providing us with a wealth of information in this regard, it’s never been easier to find out what we should and shouldn’t be eating in order to give our health a boost.

No doubt this is why functional foods have been named as one of the top trends of the future, with a new report from Tastewise (which uses artificial intelligence to predict food-related trends) revealing that people are now increasingly choosing to eat certain foods based on what benefits they can bring, as well as how delicious they taste.

Reported on by the Food Industry Executive, the Tastewise report found that 37 per cent of consumers are now looking for functional benefits from food and drink, with a 23 per cent hike in people specifically looking for wellness benefits this year.

As explained by the British Nutrition Foundation, functional foods are those that provide additional or enhanced benefits above their basic nutritional value, encompassing a broad range of products.

Some of these are generated around a particular ingredient, such as produce containing pre or probiotics, plant stanols and sterols, and so on. But others can be fortified with a nutrient that would otherwise not usually be present, such as vitamin D in milk.

Probiotics are live microorganisms which have positive health benefits when adequate amounts are consumed, while prebiotics can be taken to promote the growth of particular bacteria in the large intestine, inhibiting the growth of bacteria that could be harmful to intestinal health.

And stanols and sterols are natural ingredients in plants and fruit, and it’s thought that they can help lower cholesterol, which is why they’re added to certain products such as reduced or low fat spreads.

The Tastewise study revealed some of the biggest trends in functional foods and their associated benefits. For example, asparagus, moon milk and golden milk are all proving popular right now, linked to helping people enjoy better sleep patterns. For weight loss, meanwhile, maple syrup, coconut water, cranberries and Provolone are all trending foods right now.

For general wellness, pea protein, smoothies, clean eating and herbal tea were found to be popular right now, while produce that people are now turning to for stress relief included hemp oil, ashwagandha, lavender and reishi.

Sweet potatoes, dates, ginger and sauerkraut are what people are eating now for brain health, while gut health is being supported by leafy greens, watermelon and peppermint.

“In order to remain innovative and stay ahead of the curve, it’s imperative that food brands understand why certain ingredients are trending by learning the deep, real motivations and functions consumers are compelled by,” Alon Chen - co-founder of Tastewise - said.

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