Back in the 1980s, the concept of functional foods first came into being in Japan. The country’s health care costs were skyrocketing, so the Ministry of Health and Welfare looked to nutritional ways to improve health for its aging population. The result was a policy that officially approved foods for specified health uses: functional foods.
Today, defining functional foods is not an exact science, especially in lieu of there being no legal definition by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for regulating functional foods and claims that appear on the labels of foods and beverages.
Some definitions that have been used include “whole, fortified, enriched or enhanced foods that provide health benefits beyond the provision of essential nutrients” and “foods or food ingredients that provide health benefits beyond meeting basic nutrition needs” as well as “foods that have been enriched or fortified with health promoting ingredients.”
One of the most common examples of fortified foods is milk with added vitamin D. This happens commonly in North America but not so much in tropical climates where consistent sunshine can provide regular intake of vitamin D.
So, what’s the point of functional foods? The Colorado State University provides a fine overall look at “foods or food ingredients that provide health benefits beyond meeting basic nutrition needs.” Interestingly enough, if you visit this website page and scroll down to the last heading about incorporating functional foods into your diet, it takes a defining turn to having mostly plant foods on your plate. Ye olde plant-based diet.
As noted in a position paper published in The Journal of Nutrition 22 years ago, functional foods, which include those that are plant-based, continue to be a major area of research in the food and nutrition sciences. The paper also wisely notes that “Diet is only one aspect of a comprehensive approach to good health.”
Nourishment from the AIM Healthy Cell Concept
Allow this blogger to add another definition: functional food is nourishment that maintains the entire cellular structure of your body so that it functions in good health. This leads to yet another definition.Nourishment: food and other things that are needed for health, growth, etc. Both definitions tie in with the AIM Healthy Cell Concept (HCC), five avenues that promote cellular health that benefits the entire body.
Food is one of those avenues, and it bears repeating that the function of food is to keep your cells healthy. The healthier your food, the healthier your cells. It all equals a healthier you. At the same time, nourishment for good health goes beyond wholesome food.
Exercise, protection, environment and attitude are the other four HCC avenues that add nourishing elements to your health.
Exercise: being physical active is beneficial for staying healthy and slowing down cellular aging.
Protection: increasing antioxidant intake protects your cells against damage from free radicals.
Environment: being in a healthy environment whenever possible contributes to healthy cells.
Attitude: managing stress and maintaining composure fosters healthy cells.
All five functional avenues deliver forms of nourishment that promote good health right down to the center of your cells, radiating through your body and mind, which takes the idea of functional foods to a whole new level.