According to nutrition expert, Dr. D.S. Epperson, functional foods work by balancing out the human body’s deficiencies or excessive chemical make-up. When foods are broken down in the mouth and stomach, they become ingredients for thousands of chemical reactions. Everything that a human consumes becomes a storeroom for chemical reactions that maintain the body’s life-force. An example of this would be the cholesterol lowering effects of eating oatmeal. It works in such a way that when a person consumes oatmeal, he or she consumes carbohydrates called glucans. Glucans are small fibers that fill the intestines which decrease the ability to absorb carbohydrates. They also increase the movement of the food in the intestines and colon, and cleanse the body as it moves out as waste.
The following would be other examples of how functional foods are working:
- Cranberries aid in the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infection. Certain active components in cranberries called proanthocyanidins may decrease the ability of dangerous bacteria, including E. coli, from adhering to the cell walls of the urinary tract.
- Dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and turnip greens may help decrease the risk of developing cancer. They contain vitamin A, needed for healthy body tissue, and vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps protect the body against cancer-inducing free radicals which can destroy the body’s cells.
- Dairy products like yogurt aid in the prevention of colon cancer and osteoporosis. Yogurt contains good bacteria called Lactobacillus bulgaricus which improves digestion and boosts immunity. It also contains minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium which may improve osteoporosis.
- Certain fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, rainbow trout, sardines and herring, contain omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to reduce the risk of developing heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol.
- Tomato and tomato products contain anti-cancer properties like lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and phenols which may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, of which cancer is the most recognized.
- Soy is known to produce estrogenic isoflavones that may be used for relief and prevention of menopausal and peri-menopausal symptoms. They may also help in lowering cholesterol levels because of its soluble fibers that reduces the amount of cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream.
- Garlic contains allicin, a powerful compound that works as an antibiotic, which may help reduce cancer risk.
There are many, many more studies that have been done on a variety of plants and animals for functionality in nutritional therapies. Functional foods can not only provide nutrients, they can also play a role in reducing your risk of disease and maintaining better health. It is important to note however, that functional foods should not be a substitute for medical treatment.