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Functional foods: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help


What is a Functional Food?

There is no agreed definition of a functional food, it is suggested that if foods have some specific health benefit can be classed as a functional food. The Government's Food Advisory Committee says functional foods are ordinary foods with components or ingredients incorporated into them to give them a specific medical or physiological benefit. It can also be argued that foods which are rich in a component that is know to be beneficial is also a functional food this would include tomatoes which are excellent sources of lycopene, and broccoli containing sulforaphane.

What are the most common functional foods?

There are many types of functional foods now available and perhaps the original functional food would be the replacements for butter or margarine that were made 'high in polyunsaturates'. There are now many more foods available to help or even confuse the consumer.

Spreading Fats- following on from vegetable fats that were high in polyunsaturates we had those which were high in monounsaturates, most commonly based on olive oil and hence conjour pictures in the mind of sundrenched olive groves. We now have spreads that can help 'lower cholesterol' and of course these naturally are more expensive than their original counterpart. And yes they do work, but only if effort is made to make other changes within the diet.

Yogurts- these can come with the same magic ingredient as spreading fats to lower cholesterol. We also have the very popular yogurts or yogurt type drink that contain special bacteria that are able to withstand the stomachs natural destructive mechanism and infiltrate the intestine to help recolonise the gut with beneficial bacteria. These are known as probiotics and are becoming increasingly popular remedy for conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and even thrush, and fortunately for the manufacturers there effect may be only short lived so you have to keep on taking them. For those who have found a perceivable benefit they are only too happy to continue consuming them.

Cereal Products- these must clearly be the winners as most breakfast cereals have been fortified for a very long time with some vitamins and minerals, and the list of fortification is increasing. Such is the value of this level of fortification they can truly be regarded as 'a good start' to the day, and if you don't eat breakfast then consuming them as a snack at any other time of the day is not such a silly thing. Moving on from breakfast cereals we have the breakfast cereal bars, considered as a healthy option over a chocolate biscuit bar, and we even have cereal bars with that same magic ingredient found in margarine to help lower cholesterol. Bread can also be bought wich is high in phytoestrogens, and it is thought that such products may be of benefit to women during the menopause period. However what you do need to know a reasonable amount of bread does need to be eaten if it is to have a beneficial affect and as yet the manufacturers cannot make a claim that it does have an affect. And by the way at 6 slices daily it is really more than most women would dream of eating, but as some say - every little helps.

Eggs- so you don't like oily fish, then why not try eggs that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, the omega 3 oils thought so beneficial to health can be given in a feed supplied to chickens, and hey presto their eggs are now a rich source too. Now if you think about it oily fish must be a functional food, but somehow that does not sound as glamorous as eggs especially enriched with these oils.

Soya Products- there are a great many soya products which are now available, it is now regarded that the inclusion of soya protein (25g) with its isoflavones, as part of a diet low in saturated fat can help<