Pattaya Daily News

09 March 2013 :: 11:03:20 am 71434

Functional Foods Are A Growing Health Trend

With more people adopting healthier lifestyles, the functional food industry has been growing fast in recent years. Functional foods are natural or processed foods containing ingredients that promote and maintain the body’s health. Such foods can supplement a regular balanced diet.
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It is said that some people eat to live, but some people live to eat, while still other people eat to socialize. But when selecting your food intake, do you also consider its health benefits? You should not buy food just because it looks or tastes good, or because it is easy to put into your mouth and finish quickly for a hasty meal.

U.S. consumers now spend more than ten billion dollars per year to buy “functional food,” or food that also has health benefits. Functional foods are becoming a popular option to take more effective care of your health. In developed countries with fast-paced lifestyles, consumers have become increasingly interested in functional foods.

What are “functional foods?” A functional food is any natural or processed food with added ingredients that provide health benefits, said associate professor Dr. Ekarach Bamrungpuech from the Institute of Nutrition at Mahidol University.

Many kinds of foods can be described as functional, such as prunes, which in addition to containing vitamins, minerals and being rich in fiber, also helps to drain the stomach and is rich in bioactive products. Ginseng has substances that cause the body to release energy efficiently, which helps reduce fatigue and ease tension, allowing the body to better endure physical and mental stress.

“Fish oil” contains polyunsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 that can lower cholesterol, helping prevent heart disease and stroke. Even the “chicken soup” of the Chinese people has been transformed into a chicken essence extract, a source of protein and bio peptide that Chinese people believe helps in the creation of blood cells.

Also popular are functional foods that are easy to digest, including medicinal mushrooms, mitake mushrooms, lingzhi mushrooms, yamabushitake muchrooms, and chitake, which have bioactive compounds that provide health benefits, particularly in the body’s immune system.

Another functional food the Chinese people eat a lot is Swiftlet bird’s nest soup. Chinese medicine believes that ingredients in the nest nourishes the yin of the lungs, allows the lungs to be moist, with water elements added to the tube and the trachea of the throat to relieve inflammation of the face and back. The soup’s ingredients are also believed to strengthen the spleen and kidneys, and aid in yang energy reduction, resulting in better skin.

Dr. Ekarach said the benefit of eating functional foods at meals will help the body to prevent disease and increase immune resistance, while slowing down the degeneration of cells in various organs.

Besides natural foods, processed food can also be classified as functional, if they have been enhanced with health-promoting ingredients such as phytochemical substances or herbs. Dr. Chanida Pachotikarn of the Dietitian Association of Thailand, states in his book “Healthy Eating,” that functional foods are foods that act on the body in addition to the food’s normal duties of providing the necessary nutrients.

The additional healthy functions may include: stimulating the body’s own defense; promoting and controlling the regulating system of the body to perform consistently; prevent or slow down the degeneration of cells in various organs of the body; prevent diseases caused by malnutrition and resulting in atherothrombotic vascular disease; and control or eliminate symptoms of certain chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.

However, it is important to understand that functional foods should be considered as a supplement to main foods consumed on a daily basis, and not a replacement for a regular balanced diet.

Good health consists of eating a variety of food adequately and appropriately in all categories, as well as maintaining a regular exercise program. The components that promote good health are: keeping the mind clear, getting adequate rest, and avoiding risk factors that assault the body.

Photo : Internet   Category : Health

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