Functional Food and Drinks: What are They?
"Functional food" is the collective term for those foodstuffs which offer a preventive health benefit in addition to nutritional value. It must be emphasized, however, that "functional food" refers to foodstuffs not medicines. The substances responsible for the positive health properties are either naturally contained in the foodstuffs or are supplemented in the desired amount.
In fact the term is not new. Decades ago, industry initiated the era of "functional foods" and/or "functional drinks" through targeted enrichment of foodstuffs and/or drinks with micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Later, the importance of dietary fiber in the human diet and its positive influence on bowel function and lowering of cholesterol levels were identified.
Recently, science has gained more and more knowledge about many additional so-called secondary vegetable matter substances, and their positive impact on health. This group comprises thousands of substances which are naturally contained in foodstuffs, particularly in fruits and vegetables. These include, for example, vegetable coloring agents such as carotinoids or anthocyans. Such substances have been proven to have anti-oxidative, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and possibly even anti-cancer properties. Thus it is often the case that fruit drinks which have not been enriched with active substances or nutrients are also "functional drinks".