A healthy body ensures consistent good health and overall well-being. Living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent chronic diseases and long-term illnesses. A person with good physical and mental health is likely to have bodily functions and processes working at their peak. Besides, good health is central to human happiness and satisfaction. Therefore, ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages is essential.
In Japan around the 1980s, the concept of functional food began. Health authorities realized the importance of improving the quality of life which is synonymous with increasing life expectancy. That is when the idea of food was introduced that promote good health and well-being while decreasing the risk of diseases. People gradually found out that functional foods provide the opportunity to ensure good health with a potentially positive effect on health.
Foods that can help regulate bodily function and eventually help in reducing diseases are characterized as functional food. The Japanese peoples’ will to live a healthy lifestyle and good food habits lead to the progress of functional foods. Ultimately, this development exceeded all expectations and resulted in increased consumer demand for functional foods that contain bio-active components.
Functional foods contain bio-active food components and are known to offer diverse health benefits. It addresses numerous health-related issues by offering nutrients that positively impact overall health. Apart from that, functional food products also provide assistance in handling many health issues such as period pain, joint pain, acidity, and liver-related diseases. For example, ‘piperine’ found in black pepper is a bio-active component that has been linked to a long list of health benefits such as reduction of insulin-resistance, anti-inflammatory effects, and improvement of hepatic steatosis. But most importantly, piperine seems to be very beneficial for inflammatory diseases that are accompanied by severe pain like rheumatoid arthritis. Similarly, almost all bio-active components found in functional foods have unique benefits for the betterment of the health.
Functional foods are typically high in important nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber. Hence, filling our diet with various functional foods helps ensure that we get the nutrients required to protect us against nutrient deficiencies. Many functional foods are especially rich in antioxidants. These molecules help neutralize harmful compounds known as free radicals, helping prevent cell damage and certain chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
The identification and development of functional foods typically requires a foundational knowledge of food, nutritional, and the science behind it. This knowledge will help to deduce the mechanisms through which functional foods and bio-active components support the improvement of health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. The mechanisms can be evaluated via research such as cell and animal studies and/or human studies. Afterward, the studies are used to assist new hypothesis for human nutrition studies. Human nutrition studies give the required data to determine if more research is required to improve the function of food component.
The idea of functional foods first emerged in the early 1980s in Japan, when a Japanese scholarly society proposed the idea. During this time, the law for functional foods was first introduced as Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU). This concept of functional food has been around for a while now. Over two thousand years ago, in the 5th century, Hippocrates said, 'let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.' Hippocrates, also known as the father of modern medicine, recognized the importance of the significance of good nourishment for good well-being. Similarly, the Japanese as well recognized the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle that comprises good fundamental dietary habits.
Now, including Japan, there has recently been a rapid increase in consumer interest for functional foods throughout the globe. Consumers require food that is healthy and protects them from different kinds of diseases. The awareness of the benefits of functional food is growing, and its demand is increasing in many countries. Several factors, such as increasing health concerns and growing health awareness about the value of functional food, are propelling the demand for functional food in Bangladesh and across the world.
The positive effects of functional food include maintaining a state of well-being and reducing the risk of pathologic consequences. The most promising target of functional food science is gastrointestinal functions, redox and antioxidant systems, and metabolism of macronutrients. Ongoing research into functional foods will allow further explorations in the area of how much they enhance bodily functions and reduction of disease risks. Some examples of functional foods include yogurt, margarine, omega-3 fatty acids enriched eggs and many more. These foods offer great potential to improve health and prevent health risks when taken as part of a balance diet and proper lifestyle.
Functional food contains bio-active food components that are primarily believed to give health benefits beyond their nutrient content. For example, yogurt contains prebiotics (non-digestible components) that has helpful affects in stimulating the growth of bacteria in the colon. Other examples of bio-active food components include, amino acids, peptides, structured lipids, etc.
Turmeric, for instance, contains a bio-active food component called ‘curcumin’. It has been shown that curcumin in turmeric has numerous health benefits like antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, enhanced brain function, and better control of obesity and diabetes.
Till now, many studies have shown that dietary food components can impart profound beneficial effects on human health, from the reduction of potential risk factors to the stoppage or delay of chronic diseases.
Bio-active food compounds, for example, are extra nutritional constituents that typically occur in small quantities in foods. Bio-active food components like polyphenols, polysaccharides, flavonoids, peptides, and saponins offer versatile health-promoting properties.
The primary responsibility of a diet is to provide enough nutrients to meet metabolic requirements while giving the consumer a feeling of satisfaction and well-being. Functional food is beneficial to the body in numerous ways. Hence, we must start incorporating them into our regular diets for a sustainable health goal.
Read also: Why non-GMO matters!
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