Reading the Label: Frequently Asked Questions about Functional Products
This article will help you find answers to the most common questions about functional products.
Question: What functional ingredients can be expected in the future?
Answer: Perhaps in the future we will be able to see foods and drinks in our stores with the addition of substances such as collagen, intended to be included in the daily diet to combat aging of the body, or supplements in the form of extracts from mushrooms for «breath freshening». It is possible that anti-oxidants from green tea will be added to drinks as an antihistamine; another kind of antioxidant will be added to our drinks to combat eyestrain. The use of «functional» foods is currently just beginning. This area needs strict regulation and rules, otherwise everything can get so confused that you no longer understand which food is real and healthy, and which is not.
Question: Is there a risk of «overdose» if I eat breakfast cereals, drink fruit juices and eat cereal bars, i.e. all foods with added vitamins and minerals?
Answer: There may even be an «overdose» of vitamins and minerals. I would be especially careful not to go overboard on foods with extra nutrients, and this is especially true for children. If you’re going to eat these foods at all, then I think it’s a good idea to stick to one food category, such as breakfast cereal, and then cut out other vitamin and mineral-fortified foods throughout the day.
Question: Are there really useful «functional» products on the market today?
Answer: Plant-derived stanoid and steroid ester foods appear to actually lower blood cholesterol levels in people with elevated low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol) levels. Mineral waters and calcium-fortified orange juices can be helpful if you are eating less dairy than recommended daily. I am under the impression that foods with «healthy» probiotic bacteria can help boost immunity and restore bacterial balance in the colon, especially when taking antibiotics. And foods with omega-3 fatty acids are suitable for people who eat little oily fish. Otherwise, probably, at the present time, “functional” food should be treated with caution. We recommend that you buy and eat only what you think will really benefit your health and have no disadvantages from a nutritional point of view. There is nothing good about consuming additional nutrients that are part of an inherently unhealthy food (drinks high in sugar or chocolate butter).
Summary of Functional Foods
- First of all, make sure that «functional foods» are healthy foods in general. Resist the temptation to buy an energy drink that contains, for example, guarana or caffeine if it contains too much sugar. It’s better to have a cup of coffee.
- Consider which foods are the most beneficial for you and your family members. If one of your family members has high cholesterol levels, then it makes sense to buy products with additional additives designed to lower cholesterol levels: margarine with plant-based stanoid and steroid esters and foods with added soy proteins. If you are low on dairy, then calcium-fortified drinks may be helpful.
- Choosing «functional» foods should be smart: foods you don’t really need won’t improve your health, they will only increase your nutritional costs.
Source: Adapted from How to Read Labels by Amanda Ursell
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