India has seen a remarkable change in the pattern of nutrition-related problems over the past few decades. The earlier decades witnessed malnutrition and disorders related to protein, Vitamin A, vitamin B1 deficiency. The last decade, a new nutritional problem began to emerge in India – the problem of over-nutrition and obesity. This is a phenomenon that is already entrenched in developed countries, with increasing automation, changing lifestyles, and fast foods.

In India we now face a dual burden – persistent under nutrition alongside emerging over nutrition. This article provides an overview of functional foods and they can help to maintain the right level of nutrition.
Functional foods help in meeting basic nutritional needs as well as to fight illness.

There are 4 kinds of functional foods:

1. Conventional Foods

These foods represent simplest form of conventional foods. Whole fruits and vegetables are rich in phytochemicals and anti-oxidants. Yogurt helps maintain digestive health as it contains natural probiotic bacteria. Dark chocolates are also rich in anti-oxidants.

2. Modified Foods.

These are foods that are enriched, fortified and enhanced with additional nutrients or bio active compounds. Foods are modified to improve nutritional value and health attributes by using bio technology.
e.g. Calcium fortified orange juice, Vitamin B enriched bread, iodized salt, cereals fortified with vitamins and minerals, energy drinks enriched with herbs or amino acids.

3. Medical foods

These foods meet specific nutritional requirements and are designed for enteric administration. Medical foods in enteric administration in a manner that the food is broken down in intestines only.
e.g. liquid formulas for people with kidney disease, diabetes, liver disease and other health issues. Medical foods through a gastronomy tube are given to comatose patients as patients cannot eat food by mouth.

4. Dietary Use Foods

These special dietary foods are not required to be administered under a doctor’s care and are found in a variety of stores. In certain health conditions, these foods address to dietary needs that meet specific nutritional requirements.
E.g. gluten free foods, lactose free dairy products, lactose free dairy products, formulas and shakes that promote weight management.
With increasing awareness of the connection between food and health, it is important to be mindful of what we eat and how much we eat, to maintain good health.