Yoghurt, enriched with special bacteria, antioxidants in the fruit juice, milk with certain herbal additives - food with a functional ingredient, functional food so, healthy food is to make even healthier! What is behind this added benefit and what is it really doing for our health?
Functional food is understood to mean foods that have a health-promoting effect on the human organism beyond their normal nutritional value. Functional Food gets this extended benefit through the addition of special substances, which are obtained through various vitamins, minerals, probiotics and prebiotics. So normal foods such as yogurt, juices, bread or even milk can be supplemented with an additional ingredient and become a functional food. These additives are, for example, lactic acid bacteria, plant sterols, omega-3 fatty acids or folic acid.
The Federal Office of Public Health describes Functional Food as a supplement to a conscious diet. However, these functional foods can not resolve serious nutritional problems, on a healthy basis it depends.
In Germany, it is above all pro- and prebiotic dairy products that fill the shelves of supermarkets as functional foods. For example in the form of yoghurt, quark or cheese. Selected bacterial cultures that can be found in these foods should have a positive effect on the intestinal flora and strengthen the body's defenses. Milk drinks with herbal supplements or soft drinks such as ACE juices enriched with vitamins C and E as well as beta-carotene are also in vogue and should develop this additional benefit in the body. Another trend is so-called wellness drinks, which in addition to vitamins also contain omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.
Secondary plant substances are increasingly used to fortify certain foods. For example, there are cereal bars or corn flakes that are provided with flavonoids, or fruit juices that contain polyphenol-rich green tea extract.
Often, certain drinks or even desserts are provided with indigestible carbohydrates, such as inulin or oligofructose. These pass unchanged into the large intestine and serve there the lactic acid bacteria as food. These additives are now prebiotics that lead to the same goal as probiotics, but indirectly. However, since the body tolerates only a limited amount of indigestible carbohydrates, they should be consumed only in moderation, as it may come from excess inulin in the body to indigestion and diarrhea.
Probiotics are therefore foods with living lactic acid bacteria, which have a positive effect on the intestinal flora. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are fiber that causes an increase in the growth or activity of intestinal bacteria. These include sour milk products from the refrigerated shelves such as yoghurt, kefir or sour cream, but also milk-fermented beans, carrots or sauerkraut are rich in these bacteria.
However, all these positive attributes attributed to such functional foods should be treated with caution. Because only a few manufacturers can prove the health value based on scientific studies. It also remains questionable whether the body needs these added substances or is able to produce them sufficiently self.