What are functional ingredients?
A functional ingredient is a bioactive compound that can be used in the manufacture of functional food products. These bioactive compounds can be obtained from a variety of sources such as primary produce, marine sources, microorganisms and inorganic raw materials. Functional ingredients may also be derived from food processing waste providing additional economic benefits to food businesses. Many of these functional ingredients can also be used for the preparation of nutraceuticals.
Separation, purification and concentration techniques are often used to recover these compounds. The methods selected are dependent on the nature and economic value of the target compound(s) and the chemical and/or biological structure from which it was sourced. Traditional techniques that have been used include solvent and water-based extraction, followed by filtration, and then distillation, evaporation, crystallization or precipitation. However, techniques such as supercritical CO2 fluid extraction, low-polarity-based extraction, membrane-based and molecular distillation are being used more frequently. These alternative techniques have several advantages in that they can be more efficient and more cost effective. In addition, there is also increasing concern regarding the use of solvents that, despite being food grade, can leave chemical residues. Considering the health conscience target market, these cleaner technologies are considered attractive – particularly as they reduce the use of solvents.
What are functional foods?
Functional foods and beverages are those that provide an extra health benefit to the consumer beyond basic nutrition. Examples include foods that have been fortified with beneficial nutrients or foods that are free from certain components such as lactose or gluten-free.
Functional foods can be grouped into three categories; functional packaged foods, functional beverages and functional fresh foods.
Examples of functional packaged foods include breads and cereals that have additional ingredients that can provide a health benefit such as increased dietary fibre, vitamins or minerals. A range of dairy products have also been explored such as yoghurts containing live cultures, and lactose-free cheeses and yoghurts. The inclusion of phytosterols in margarines is another commonly available functional food product.
Examples of functional beverages include energy drinks and those enriched with vitamins and minerals or lactose-free milk. An example of a South Australian business that produces a functional beverage is Organic and Raw. Organic and Raw manufacture a fermented tea called Kombucha that provides live probiotic microorganisms (healthy bacteria and yeasts) to the consumer. Organic and Raw started production of their Kombucha product in 2011 and have since expanded their product range to six varieties and are selling their products nationally.
Key points of functional food and ingredients:
Examples of functional foods:
Benefits of functional food:
Functional foods are associated with several potential health benefits.
What is not a functional food?
Functional foods and medicines are different from a legal perspective. Claims about the ability to prevent, treat or cure disease or illness (medicinal claims) are not allowed on foods. But they are permitted on medicines.
There is no specific definition of a superfood and no way of testing whether a food is ‘super’ or not. The term is sometimes used by journalists in magazines and newspapers to describe a food that is rich in a particular nutrient or other bioactive substance.
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