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Extension Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health

Functional Foods

What are Functional Foods?

Functional foods can be defined as foods that contain components that impart health benefits beyond basic nutrition. The functional attributes of many traditional foods and food components are being discovered. In addition, new food products are being developed to enhance or incorporate the beneficial compounds.

Many common foods, along with specially-modified new food products, are included as being "functional foods." A few examples of functional foods are licorice, green tea, soy, flaxseed, garlic, wine, fish, fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and seeds.

Many times the terms functional foods, nutraceuticals and phytochemicals are used interchangeably. Phytochemicals are plant chemicals, usually referring to those compounds which seem to have biological effects on the body. Again, technically this would include vitamins and minerals, but usually means non-traditional compounds that do not cause a deficiency condition if not present. Examples are lycopene and isoflavones. Many of the foods listed as functional foods are functional foods because they contain a certain phytochemical.

Functional Foods Resources

Pronunciation Guide for Common Phytochemical Names (one page)

Color Me Healthy, Enjoying Fruits and Vegetables (8 page fact sheet)

Healthy Whole Grains (web site)

Omega-3s (web site)

Potential benefits and food sources of many bio-active functional food components (a chart on page 5)

Functional Foods: A Prescription for Health? Table of Functional Foods


Diet and herbs help migraine headaches
(article on page 5)

Menopause management with plants (chart on page 6)

Antioxidants in Fruits Vegetables and Tea (article) 

Biotechnology Designing more nourishing foods (article)

Chocolate Enjoy It In Small Amounts (article) 

Margarines that Help Lower Cholesterol (article) 

Roughage (aka fiber) is good for us (article on page 3) 

Soy for your health (article on page 6)

Saponins for Health (article)

Health potential of tea (article on pages 4 and 5)

Carotenoid (Vitamin A) Food Sources: Fruits and Vegetables "Best Buys" Guide

Cruciferous (Cabbage Family) Vegetables: "Best Buys" Guide

Fiber-Rich Fruits and Vegetables: a "Best Buys" Guide

Good Sources of Vitamin C: Fruits and Vegetables "Best Buys" Guide

Antioxidants for Memory (article)

Beta Carotene How Safe and Effective (article)

Sugar alcohols: Reduced Calorie Sweeteners -- Polyols (article)