Food & Nutrition Journal (ISSN: 2575-7091)

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Functional Foods for Health Status and Social Well Being

Ravi Pratap Singh*, Arvind Singh

Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, India

*Corresponding author: Ravi Pratap Singh, Professor & Former Director, Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi-221005, India. Tel: +919838464343; Email:

Received Date: 07 November, 2017; Accepted Date: 18 November, 2017; Published Date: 27 November, 2017

Citation: Singh RP and Singh A (2017) Functional Foods for Health Status and Social Well Being. Food Nutr J 2: 156. DOI: 10.29011/2575-7091.100056

Functional foods have extra health beneficial components other than basic nutrients. Carotenoids, flavonoids, polyphenols occupied the major share of functional foods. Fruits and vegetables are rich source of these functional components. Nutricereals are also rich in phytochemicals and dietary fibres and provide protection against many diseases. The focus of present review is on potential health benefits of functional foods and some traditional preparations.

Keywords: Dietary Fibres; Functional Drinks; Functional Fruits; Probiotics

1.       Introduction

The primary role of diet is to provide enough nutrients to meet metabolic requirements, while giving the consumer a feeling of satisfaction and well-being. Recent knowledge, however, supports the hypothesis that, beyond meeting nutrition needs, diet may modulate various physiological functions and may play detrimental or beneficial roles in some diseases [1]. Now concepts are expanding from the past emphasis on survival, hunger satisfaction, and preventing adverse effects to an emphasis on the use of foods to promote a well-being state, improving health, and reducing the risk of diseases. These concepts are particularly important for increasing cost of health care, the steady increase in life expectancy and the desire of older people for improved life quality [2].

Functional food is a recent concept that originated in Japan but was further developed in the United States, Europe and other parts of the world. This concept implies that foods and food components have the ability to beneficially influence body functions to help improve the state of well-being, health and reduce the risk of diseases. The market of these products is significant [3]. In total, more than 1700 functional food products have been launched in Japan between 1988 and 1998 with an estimated turnover of around 14 billion US$ in 1999. The market was estimated to be 5 billion US$ in 2003 (Side, 2006) [4] and 5.73 billion US$ in 2006, while more than 500 products were labeled as FOSHU in 2005 [4,5].

From a practical point of view, a functional food can be:

• A natural food in which one of the components has been naturally enhanced through special growing conditions.

• A food to which a component has been added to provide benefits (e.g. the addition of selected probiotic bacteria with proven health benefit characteristics to improve gut health).

• A food from which a harmful component has been removed so that the food has less adverse effects on health (e.g. the reduction of Saturated Fatty Acids [SFA]).

• A food in which the nature of one or more components has been chemically modified to improve health (e.g. the hydrolysed protein in infant formulas to reduce the likelihood of allergenicity).

• A food in which the bioavailability of one or more components has been increased to provide greater absorption of a beneficial component.

• Any combination of the preceding possibilities.

Functional foods are similar in appearance to conventional foods; the former being consumed as part of the normal diet. In contrast to conventional foods, functional foods, however, have demonstrated physiological benefits and can reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions, including maintenance of gut health [6]. When food is being cooked or prepared using "scientific intelligence" with or without knowledge of how or why it is being used, the food is called "functional food".

Functional foods may improve the general conditions of the body (e.g. pre-and probiotics), decrease the risk of some diseases (e.g. cholesterol-lowering products), and could even be used for curing some illnesses.

2.       Development of Functional Foods

Functional food development implies the incorporation of specific bioactive compounds with positive physiological effects [7]. There are different technological strategies that modify food composition to accomplish health improvement by adding those bioactive compounds [8]. Most bioactive compounds characterized as nutraceuticals are derived from plants. Numerous bioactive components isolated from legumes, cereals, grains, fruits and vegetables have been shown to be efficacious in reducing lipid and cholesterol levels, increasing bone mineral density and antioxidant status as well as possessing anticancer properties [9]. However, of the hundreds of plant-derived nutraceuticals that have been identified, few have been incorporated into common foods for habitual consumption. Table 1 shows different functional components with their source and benefits.

3.       Functional Fruits

Apart from traditional fruits, the functional fruits and vegetables like pomegranate, kiwi, Cranberry, Bottle guard, Bitter guard have meticulous health beneficial effects. Some of them are discussed here:

3.1.  Pomegranate

The health benefits of pomegranate have been attributed to its wide range of phytochemicals, which are predominantly polyphenols, including primarily hydrolyzable ellagitannins, anthocyanins, and other polyphenols (Table 2). Antioxidant activity of pomegranate has been attributed to its high polyphenolic content, specifically punicalagins, punicalins, gallagic acid, and ellagic acid. 

Pomegranate juice exert antiatherogenic, antioxidant, antihypertensive, and anti-inflammatory effects.

·                     Punicic acid, a conjugated fatty acid present in pomegranate has an in vivo anti-inflammatory effect by limiting neutrophil activation and lipid peroxidation consequences. 

·                     Pomegranate fruit and derivates endowed with a very high antioxidant activity as an antiproliferative, antiinvasive, and pro-apoptotic agent in various cancer cell lines and animal models 
·                     The protective effects of pomegranate polyphenolics against UVA- and UVB-induced cell death of human skin fibroblasts may be attributed to reduced generation of intracellular ROS and increased intracellular antioxidant capacity
·                     Pomegarnate peel possesses antibacterial properties. Several studies conducted on aril juice is reported to possess anti viral activity.

3.2.  Kiwi Fruit

Kiwi fruit is rich in vitamin C, Lutein and Xanthine and exert strong antioxidant activity. It helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases, cancer, insomnia. It improves the iron absorption and digestion.

3.3.  Cranberry

Cranberry is a rich source of bioactive phenolic compounds with antiproliferative, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial activities. Cranberries contain bioactive compounds such as anthocyanins, flavonoids and tannins. Cranberry has been traditionally used to treat and prevent urinary-tract infections.

3.4.  Tomatoes

Lycopene is the principal component of the tomato. It exhibits strong antioxidant effects to higher number of conjugative double bonds. Lycopene helps in prevention of prostate cancer and stress induced diseases.

4.5. Amla

Amla is a rich source of Vitamin C. Amla enhances food absorption, balances stomach acid, fortifies the liver, nourishes the brain and mental functioning, supports the heart, strengthens the lungs, regulates elimination of free radicals, enhances fertility, helps the urinary system, increases skin health, promotes healthier hair, acts as a body coolant, flushes out toxins, increases vitality, strengthens eyes, improves muscle tone and, acts as an antioxidant. Amla is used for hair lose, eye sight, cardiovascular disease, diarrhea, digestion disorders etc. it possesses anti-ageing components and helps in mineral absorption.

Fruits industry byproducts are rich source of dietary fibres and other bioactive compounds. Several studies have been focused on extraction of bioactive compounds from FP (Struck et al., 2016) [31].

4.       Probiotics

Probiotics are defined as ‘‘live microorganisms, consumed in adequate numbers for health benefit on the host’’. Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) and bifidobacteria, the most studied and widely employed bacteria within the probiotic field, are normal components of the intestinal microbiota and have a long tradition of safe application within the food industry [32]. This success of dairy probiotics can partly be explained by their general positive image among consumers [33,34]. Recently, encapsulation was found as possible technology for decreasing sensitivity of probiotics [35,36]. Fruit juice has also been suggested as a novel, appropriate medium for fortification with probiotic cultures [37]. Now a days, encapsulation of active ingredients like probiotics is used to ensures that the bioactive compounds remain stabilized and maintains their bioavailability [38].

5.       Prebiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, thus improving host health. Fructo-Oligosaccharide (FOS), inulin, Isomalto-Oligosaccharides (IMO), polydextrose, lactulose and resistant starch are considered as the main prebiotic components. Oligosaccharides play important role in obesity control [39]. Besides being prebiotics, these compounds have shown to increase calcium absorption, thus improve both bone mineral content and Bone Mineral Density (BMD) [40]. Furthermore, they influence the formation of blood glucose, and reduce the levels of cholesterol and serum lipids [41]. Prebiotics enhance the growth and survival of the probiotic cultures by influencing the growth and metabolites of both the probiotic and the starter. Due to the potential synergy between probiotics and prebiotics, foods containing a combination of these ingredients are often referred to as synbiotics [42].

6.       Functional drinks

Another important product category within the functional food segment is non-alcoholic beverages fortified with vitamins A, C and E or other functional ingredients. Although, there is a relatively high number of a product available in this segment e.g. functional drinks are those of cholesterol-lowering drinks (with combination of omega-3 and soy), ‘‘eye health’’ drinks (with lutein) or ‘‘bone health’’ drinks (with calcium and inulin) [43].

In India, the tea is popular drink among Indian population. In some regions, the tea is incorporated with different spices and herbs which add the nutritional value to tea. Several researchers have reported the health beneficial effects of herbal tea [44,45]. Masala tea becoming quite popular all over world and excellent for preventing seasonal diseases, cough, cold, fever and influenza etc (Table 3).

6.1.              Juice Blends: A Juice blend of Pomegranate, Amla and green turmeric is consider being excellent for post cancer operated patients and coronary heart diseases. The medicinal of pomegranate and amla is already mentioned in this article. The turmeric is also known for its meticulous antiseptic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, anti depression and anti ageing effects. Curcumin (generally 3%) is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. Curcumin also helps to relieve arthritis pain.

6.2.              Functional soup - Moringa dried/fresh leaves powder/paste soup amalgamated with sweet corn, green pea, ginger, black pepper and cardamom is commonly used by Indian population. Moringa leaves possess good quality proteins and several medicinal effects. Moringa is also rich in vitamin A, B and C and minerals like calcium, iron and phosphorous. Moringa helps in the prevention of diabetes and high blood pressure. Other components of soup also contribute to the excellent taste and medicinal value.

7.       Functional cereals

Oat and barley, offer another alternative for the production of functional foods. Cereals can be used as fermentable substrates for the growth of probiotic microorganisms. Additionally, cereals can be applied as sources of non-digestible carbohydrates that besides promoting several beneficial physiological effects can also selectively stimulate the growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria present in the colon and act as prebiotics. Cereals contain water soluble fiber, such as beta-glucan and arabinoxylan, oligosaccharides, such as galacto and fructo-oligosaccharides and resistant starch, which have been suggested to fulfill the prebiotic concept. Finally, cereal constituents, such as starch, can be used as encapsulation materials for probiotics in order to improve their stability during storage and enhance their viability during their passage through the adverse conditions of the gastrointestinal tract [46].

Some functional cereal components such as beta-glucan, however, applied also in the dairy and bakery industries. Recent research has focused on the use of beta-glucans, in the manufacture of low-fat ice creams and yogurts. Incorporation of beta-glucans with other soluble dietary fiber, into low-fat dairy products can make their mouthfeel, scoopability and sensory properties resemble those of full-fat products [46].

Food industrial By-Products (BP) are rich sources of functional ingredients, such as fibre, minerals, and phytochemicals can be fortified in bakery products [47-49].

In India, the lactating women take some traditional food supplements made from Rice/Wheat Flour, dry fruits, nuts and seeds, ghee (Clarified Butter), resins, herbs, brown/black pepper, coconut shreds, gums etc. These traditional supplements are not only energy rich but also provide minerals and vitamins (Table 4).

8.       Functional meat

Meat and its derivatives may also be considered functional foods to the extent that they contain numerous compounds thought to be functional. The idea of using food for health purposes rather than for nutrition opens up a whole new field for the meat industry. In addition to traditional presentations, meat industry can explore various possibilities, including the control of the composition of raw and processed materials via reformulation of fatty acid profiles or inclusion of antioxidants, dietary fiber or probiotics, etc [50].

9.       Perspectives

The future viability and success of functional foods in the marketplace depend on several elements. The key issue is consumer acceptance of such products. For consumers to agree to pay the cost associated with functional foods, they must be convinced by its health claims through clear, truthful, and unambiguous messages.




Health Benefits



Carrots, Pumpkin, Sweet

potatoes, Papaya, cantaloupe, Mango,

Spinach, Tomatoes

neutralizes free radicals which may damage cells; bolsters cellular antioxidant defenses; can be made into vitamin A in the body

Lutein, Zeaxanthin

Kale and collards (Leafy vegetables commonly used as saag), spinach,

corn, eggs, citrus fruits,

asparagus, carrots,


supports maintenance of eye health


tomatoes and processed

tomato products,

watermelon, red/pink


Antioxidants, supports maintenance of

prostate health and protect from cardiovascular diseases

Dietary (functional and total) fiber

Insoluble fiber

wheat bran, corn bran, fruit skins

supports maintenance of digestive health; reduce the risk cancer

Beta glucan

oat bran, oat meal, oat flour, barley, rye

may reduce risk of coronary heart disease


Soluble fibe

psyllium seed husk (Isabgol), peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits

may reduce risk of CHD and some types of cancer

Whole grains

cereal grains, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice

reduce risk of CHD and some types of cancers; maintenance of blood glucose levels

Fatty acids

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)

tree nuts, olive oil,

canola oil

may reduce risk of CHD

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) Omega-3 fatty acids -ALA

walnuts, flaxseeds,

flaxseed oil

maintenance of heart and eye health; maintenance of mental function

PUFAs - Omega-3 fatty acids- DHA/EPA

Salmon fish, tuna fish, marine and other fish oils, Flaxseed oil

may reduce risk of CHD; supports maintenance of eye health and mental


Conjugated linoleic

acid (CLA)

beef and lamb; some cheese

supports maintenance of desirable body composition and immune health


Anthocyanins -

Cyanidin, Pelargonidin,

Delphinidin, Malvidin

berries, cherries, red grapes

boost cellular antioxidant defenses; supports

maintenance of healthy brain function

Flavanols -

Catechins, Epicatechins,


tea, cocoa, chocolate, apples, grapes

supports maintenance of heart health

Procyanidins and


Cranberries, cocoa, apples, strawberries, grapes, red wine, peanuts, cinnamon,

tea, chocolate

supports maintenance of urinary tract health and heart health

Flavanones -



citrus fruits

neutralizes free radicals which may damage cells; bolster cellular antioxidant defenses

Flavonols- Quercetin,




onions, apples, tea,


neutralizes free radicals which may damage cells; bolster cellular antioxidant defenses



cauliflower, broccoli,

broccoli sprouts,

cabbage, kale,


may enhance detoxification of undesirable compounds; bolsters cellular antioxidant




Sardines fish, spinach,

yogurt, low-fat dairy products, fortified foods

and beverages

may reduce the risk of osteoporosis


spinach, pumpkin seeds, whole grain breads and cereals, halibut fish, almonds,

brazil nuts, beans

supports maintenance of normal muscle and nerve function, immune health and bone health


potatoes, low-fat dairy products, whole grain and cereals, citrus, beans, banana, leafy greens

may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke, in combination with a low sodium diet


fish, red meat, whole grains, garlic, liver, eggs

neutralizes free radicals which may damage cells; supports maintenance of immune and prostate health

Phenolic acids

Caffeic acid, Ferulic acid

apples, pears, citrus

fruits, some vegetables, whole grains, coffee

cellular antioxidant defenses; supports

maintenance of eye and heart health

Plant stanols/sterols

Free Stanols/Sterols

corn, soy, wheat,

fortified foods and


may reduce risk of CHD

Stanol/Sterol esters

stanol ester dietary

supplements, fortified foods and beverages, including table spreads

may reduce risk of CHD


Sugar alcohols

Xylitol, Sorbitol,

Mannitol, Lactitol

some chewing gums and other food applications

may reduce risk of dental caries


Inulin, Fructo-


(FOS), Polydextrose

whole grains, onions, some fruits, garlic, honey, leeks, banana, fortified foods and


supports maintenance of digestive health; supports calcium absorption


Yeast, Lactobacilli,

Bifidobacteria and

other specific strains of beneficial bacteria

certain yogurts and other cultured dairy and non- dairy applications

supports maintenance of digestive and immune health; benefits are strain-specific


Isoflavones- Daidzein,


soybeans and soy-based foods

Maintenance of bone and immune health, and healthy brain function; In women, supports menopausal health


flax seeds, rye, seeds and nuts, lentils, triticale,

broccoli, cauliflower,


support maintenance of heart and immune health

Soy protein

Soy Protein

soybeans and soy-based foods like milk, yogurt,

cheese and tofu

may reduce risk of CHD


Diallyl sulfide, Allyl methyl trisulfide

garlic, onions, leeks, scallions (Looks like green onion)

enhance detoxification

of undesirable compounds; supports maintenance of

heart, immune and

digestive health


cruciferous vegetables

may enhance detoxification of undesirable compounds;

supports maintenance of healthy immune function



organ meats, milk, eggs, carrots, sweet potato, spinach

supports maintenance of eye, immune and bone health; contributes to cell


Thiamin (Vitamin B1)

lentils, peas, brown or enriched white rice, pistachios and certain fortified breakfast cereals

supports maintenance of mental function; helps regulate metabolism

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

lean meats, eggs, green leafy vegetables, dairy

products and certain fortified breakfast cereals

supports cell growth; helps regulate metabolism

Niacin (Vitamin B3)

dairy products, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs and certain fortified cereals

supports cell growth; helps regulate metabolism

Pantothenic acid

(Vitamin B5)

sweet potato, organ

meats, lobster (Sea Products), soybeans, lentils and certain fortified breakfast cereals

Helps regulate metabolism and hormone synthesis


(Vitamin B6)

beans, nuts, legumes, fish, meat, whole grains

and certain cereals

supports maintenance of immune health; helps regulate metabolism

Folate or folic acid

(Vitamin B9)

beans, legumes, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals, pasta, rice

reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord defect;

maintenance of immune health

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

eggs, meat, poultry, milk and certain cereals

supports maintenance of mental function; helps regulate metabolism and supports blood cell formation


Liver, salmon, dairy products, eggs, oysters and certain cereals

helps regulate metabolism and hormone synthesis

Vitamin C

guava, sweet red/green pepper, kiwi, citrus fruit,

strawberries, fortified foods and beverages

neutralizes free radicals which may damage cells; supports maintenance of bone and immune health

Vitamin D

sunlight, fish, fortified foods such as yogurts or cereals, and beverages, including milk and juices

may reduce the risk of osteoporosis; helps regulate calcium and phosphorus; supports immune health; helps support cell growth

Vitamin E

sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, turnip greens, fortified foods and beverages

neutralizes free radicals, which may damage cells; supports maintenance of immune and heart health

Source:; Sarin et al. (2012) [10]


Table 1: Examples of Functional Components.

Plant component



Pomegranate juice

Anthocyanins, glucose, organic acid, ascorbic acid, EA, ETs, gallic acid, caffeic acid, catechin, quercetin, rutin, minerals

Poyrazoglu and others (2002) [11]; Ignarro and others (2006) [12]; Lansky and Newman (2007) [13]; Heber and others (2007) [14]; Mousavinejad and others (2009) [15]; Jaiswal and others (2010) [16]

Pomegranate seed oil

Conjugated linolenic acid, linoleic acid, oleic acid, stearic acid, punicic acid, eleostearic acid, catalpic acid

Ozgul-Yucel (2005) [17]; Fadavi and others (2006) [18]; El-Nemr and others (2006) [19]; Sassano and others (2009) [20]

Pomegranate peel

Luteolin, quercetin, kaempferol, gallagic, EA glycosides, EA, punicalagin, punicalin, pedunculagin

Van Elswijk and others (2004) [21]; Amakura and others (2000) [22]; Seeram and others (2008) [23]

Pomegranate leaves

EA; fatty acids

Ercisli and others (2007) [24]; Lan and others (2009) [25]

Pomegranate flower

Polyphenols, punicalagin punicalin, EA

Kaur and others (2006) [26]; Aviram and others (2008) [27]

Pomegranate roots and bark

Alkaloids, ETs

Neuhofer and others (1993) [28]; Gil and others (2000) [29]

Source: Viuda- Martos et al., 2010 [30]


Table 2: Functional components of different parts of pomegranate.





Antioxidant, anti-septic, local anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, Warming, carminative and anti-flatulent properties.

Active component: Eugenol.


Cardamom (100g) contains energy (300 kcal), carbohydrates (68g), protein (11g), dietary fiber (28g), Vitamin C, Thiamine, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin, Manganese, Iron Magnesium, Zinc.

Antidepressant, Lower Cholesterol, Cure Asthma, Helps in Sore throat, Improve Blood circulation


Cinnamon bark contains a natural antiseptic that have antibacterial, antifungal and anti viral activity

Natural pain killer and reduce the inflammation

It contains polyphenols which maintain metabolism, reduce blood sugar, improve digestion

It increases the bioavailability of medicines


Gastroprotective; helps in gastritis, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial activity, act as appetizer

It Protect the brain cells


Antibiotic, germicidal, fungicidal and disinfectant, Antidepressant, Antiinflammatory agent

Cure respiratory disorders and bronchitis

Antioxidant activity; helps in prevention of cancer and cardiovascular diseases

Antiageing effects; fights with free radicals, Wound healing effects

Active components: Camphene, Eugenol and Cineole

Black pepper

Cure respiratory disorders, coughs, constipation, indigestion, anemia, impotency and cardiovascular diseases


Table 3: Components of Masala tea.


Components of Panjiri



It helps in uterus contraction. It is also a source of fibres

Ginger Powder

Antiseptic. Promotes circulation.

Cardamom seeds

Antispasmodic, warming

Melon seeds

Essential Fatty acids, Minerals

Nuts and dry fruits

Essential fatty Acids, protein, vitamins



Rice/Wheat Flour

Fibres, Minerals and vitamins


Laxative, minerals


Medium Chain Fatty Acids, Energy, fibre


Warming, Clear the mucus


Prevent anemia, antiseptic, digestion

Fennel Seeds

Antiseptic, Promote milk Flows, anti spasmodic


Table 4: Functions of Components of Traditional Food Supplements for lactating women.

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