“Functional food” is a buzzword these days. But what in the world does it really mean? While in the US there is no legal definition, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics defines a functional food as “a food that provides additional health benefits that may reduce disease risk and/or promote good health.” This broad definition includes regular foods that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition, as well as modified and fortified foods. Yogurt for digestive health and cereal for heart health are the most commonly consumed functional foods in the US, while functional beverages (such as sports drinks) remain the leader of the pack in regards to sales. Currently, functional foods are the fastest growing category within the wellness sector of the food and beverage market; they’re even displacing some supplement sales, as consumers shift towards fortified products.
Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Institute of Food Technologists