Functional Food

Since a finalized definition of Functional Food is yet to evolve; for all practical purposes a functional food is one that is given an additional function (often one related to individual’s health-promotion or disease prevention) by either adding new ingredients or enhancing the existing ones.

Dr Asmita Shah

All foods are functional since each one provides varying amounts of nutrients, enough energy to support vital metabolic processes and sustain growth. Functional foods are modified food items that claim to improve health and/ or well-being by providing benefit beyond that of the traditional nutrients it originally contained. Functional foods may include such day-to-day use items e.g. cereals, breads and beverages that may be fortified with vitamins, minerals or some other nutrients.

Functional foods/foods for health are an important part of an overall healthful lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and physical activity. They have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition they offer…


The general category of functional foods include:

  • Oatmeal is a familiar example of a functional food because it naturally contains soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol levels.
  • Processed food or foods fortified with health-promoting additives, like “vitamin-enriched” products. The commonest example of this type of fortification is addition of iodine to table salt, or Vitamin D to milk, done to resolve public health problems such as goiter and rickets respectively.
  • Certain brands of vanaspati are fortified with vitamin A & D
  • Fermented foods with live cultures are considered functional foods with probiotic benefits. E.g varieties of curds available
  • Some foods are modified to have health benefits. An example is orange juice that’s been fortified with calcium for bone health.

List of some functional foods:

  • Omega 3 enriched eggs
  • Oats (because of the large amount of fiber the provide)
  • Oliy fish – salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel (bangda)
  • Tomatoes (because of Lycopene)
  • Soya products (because of high protein & phytochemicals)

If you wish to try functional foods; beware – no functional food can replace our need to have a balanced diet. They can benefit in specific deficiency states or when specific protection is wanted.

Lastly, take all tall claims with a pinch of salt. Their job is to entice you in purchasing them…

By Dr Asmita Shah, in addition to her MBBS & DNBE in Family Medicine possesses a Diploma in YOGA (Mumbai University), Speciality Certificate in ANC Exercise; she is a Fitness Consultant, Family Planning Counsel and a Member of Association for Advance Research in Obesity AARO). She is in clinical practice for over 30 years

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