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What are functional foods?
Before defining functional foods, it is important to contextualize functional by definition: – of or having a special activity, purpose, or task; relating to the way in which something works or operates – Wikipedia.
As you can see, merely applying the term “functional” to any food is a fallacy. The fact is that all foods are functional, whether they are natural (e.g., organic, not modified, etc.) or manmade concoctions (e.g., chemically latent, refined, processed, genetically modified, etc.).
Either way, every food (or beverage) either promotes health or demotes health.
“Any food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains.” The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board (IOM/FNB, 1994)
Reread that one more time. Can you see any dysfunction, contradiction, or confusion?
Let’s take a quick look at functional foods and regulations.
Terms such as “functional foods” or “nutraceuticals” are widely used in the marketplace. Such foods are regulated by FDA under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, even though they are not specifically defined by law.Source: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition
Albeit a formal or legal definition does not exist (except in Japan – Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU) (https://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/topics/foodsafety/fhc/02.html), functional foods are marketed as foods providing health benefits beyond the nutrients it contains (or did contain?) naturally.
GMO is out, ‘bioengineered’ is in, as new U.S. food labeling rules take effecthttps://www.npr.org/2022/01/05/1070212871/usda-bioengineered-food-label-gmo
The list of functional foods!
If you have searched for the list of functional foods, you may have noticed the functional foods lists are the same foods as in a search for the list for healthy foods! In fact, we recommend you open two windows in your browser and search for “list of functional foods” in one window and “list of healthy foods” in the other and see for yourself. You will see the same foods in each list from the most “trusted” websites and nutritional experts!
Each list usually includes information such as:
- Foods fortified with specific nutrients (e.g., iron fortified, calcium fortified, Omega fortified, etc.)
- Modified foods promoted for specific health benefit claims (e.g., reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, etc.)
- Natural foods with specific nutrient/disease associations (e.g., tomatoes – lycopene, flaxseed – Omega3, oats – b-glucan fiber, garlic – sulfur, dairy – calcium, fish – Omega3, beef – conjugated linoleic acid, and so on)
These lists are another shotgun approach in the food and supplement industry. Why? There are four primary problems with these lists that include:
- They do not take into account your current nutrient excesses and deficiencies
- They do not recommend any nutritional analyses to confirm excesses and deficiencies.
- They do not take into account your neuroendocrine functions that controls many nutrients
- They do not take into account any metabolic disorders you may currently experience
This is a very short list of the shortcomings of one size fits all approach to nutrition at any level.
Take a moment to read healthy foods for a further understanding that reveals why we do not arbitrarily provide a list of foods or supplement recommendations.
Unfortunately, the label “functional foods” is merely a buzzword used as a marketing tool for food manufacturers and “experts” to spin an unsuspecting public. As you know, almost every nutrient is now associated with a disease!
For example, a sugarcoated cereal is currently promoted to “help maintain healthy blood glucose levels.” If you are a diabetic, you know how misleading (untruthful) this is. However, because fiber is scientifically proven to have positive effects on glucose levels, manufacturers can make these claims – no matter how misleading!
Are fortified foods functional foods?
Fortified is the precursor in the functional arena. When you look at supermarket shelves, almost every product (except beer!) is “fortified with calcium and vitamin D” and yet, interestingly, osteoporosis remains a problem in our society.
The United States and Switzerland have fortified foods since the 1920s, when iodine was first added to salt.https://www.who.int/vietnam/news/feature-stories/detail/food-fortification-q-a
Fortified foods do provide utility only if you are actually deficient in the specific nutrient that is being fortified. If you are not deficient or currently in excess of that particular nutrient, you are potentially creating health problems in the future. Nutrient excesses are as detrimental as nutrient deficiencies!
In addition, fortified foods may not contain important cofactor nutrients required for absorption into the bloodstream or more importantly, into the cell, or the many metabolic processes of the fortified nutrient rendering the nutrient ineffective.
For example, calcium works with a plethora of other nutrients beyond vitamin D. These include magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, copper, potassium, vitamins K, C, E, and A as well as numerous amino acids. This is not a complete list by any means but reveals how nutritionally “incomplete” functional foods may be. This is the importance of nutrient interrelationships.
In conclusion, fortified foods can be beneficial in certain instances only if you know the particular fortified nutrient is truly deficient!
Another institutionalized approach to “personalized” nutrition is nutrigenomics. This is based on your genetic profile. Unfortunately, thanks to your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, you are already saddled with your genetics. Basing ones diet solely on genetics may have merit but numerous factors in your everyday life may have equal or more detrimental health effects.
Your genetic diet may not address every day factors that include:
- Toxin exposures (heavy metals and chemicals)
- Medications (both prescription and OTC)
- Stress levels (chronic stress is epidemic)
- Digestive issues
- Neuroendocrine functions
- Nutrient excesses and deficiencies
Healthy foods and dietary supplements are your most functional foods!
Today, when it comes to healthy foods, you live in a much different world than merely a century ago. In fact, reputable soil scientists a century ago were already monitoring and concerned about nutrient depletion in agricultural soils! A few of the differences include:
- Our agricultural soils are much more nutrient deficient (especially in essential trace nutrients)
- We import foods from around the world (may have questionable agricultural practices and transport time)
- Toxins are at an all-time high and increasing (chemical and toxic elements)
- Nutrient depleting drugs (prescription, OTC, recreational, illicit, etc.) are over-consumed
- Psychological stress is almost insurmountable
This is just the short list!
However, as seen in healthy foods, your healthiest foods are specific to you and will increase the specific nutrients that are currently deficient and not increase nutrients that are currently excessive. Healthy foods are based on several categories and include the importance of nutrient interrelationships.
Whether you choose commercially grown foods or organic foods, the primary function of every healthy food is to provide a wide spectrum of essential, non-essential, or conditionally essential nutrients. As you know, you can only consume a healthy amount of foods per meal that may be insufficient to correct your nutrient imbalances.
This is why dietary supplements exist.
Choosing the right dietary supplements is the same as choosing your healthiest foods.
You need to KNOW exactly which specific nutrients you NEED and DON’T NEED!
Supplements must be synergistically formulated with the specific nutrients you need to increase that assist the potential for maximum absorption and cellular utilization. Nutrient transport systems are responsible for absorption and cellular utilization.
Synergistically formulated (primary nutrients with their known cofactors) are only possible through the knowledge, understanding, and application of nutrient interrelationships.
Cofactors are secondary nutrients (e.g., vitamin D) required by the primary nutrient (e.g., calcium) to help improve nutrient absorption and cellular utilization.
The bottom line: natural, unmodified, and organically grown foods combined with dietary supplements specific to your unique nutrient needs are your most functional foods. Equally important; Your unique nutrient needs are only revealed by using laboratory analyses for nutritional screenings.
As we always say;
If you are not testing – you are guessing!
Hair analysis and functional foods
A hair analysis is a simple means to screen essential mineral excesses and deficiencies as well as the presence of toxic elements. Nutritionally, this is an excellent starting point because you must know, not guess, exactly which nutrients to target.
Both mineral excesses and deficiencies as well as toxic elements have a tremendous impact on the proper metabolic functioning of amino acids, vitamins and fatty acids.
Our Profile 2 hair analysis not only reveals essential elements (minerals) imbalances and toxic elements (heavy metals) but also includes recommendations (specifically based on the criteria seen in healthy foods) for your most “functional foods”.
Also included are dietary supplement recommendations to help correct your mineral imbalances and at the same time detox the body. Our supplements are specifically formulated based on nutrient interrelationships.
These combinations provide your most functional (healthy) foods!
Additional information you may find interesting:
- What is a Healthy Eating Plan
- How does Stress effect your nutrition
- Why should you be concerned about Toxic Elements
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The content and laboratory services provided on this site are for educational and informational purposes only and not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease.
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