What specifically are functional food and beverages?

Functional food is a term used to describe a diverse range of foods that offer health benefits beyond their basic nutritional value. These foods are carefully formulated to contain additional ingredients or increased levels of existing components that provide immunity benefits. Functional foods can be broadly categorized into two groups: conventional and modified.


Conventional functional foods are typically natural, whole-food ingredients that are inherently rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats. These foods, in their unaltered state, contribute significantly to a well-rounded diet. In contrast, modified functional foods have been fortified with specific nutrients like vitamins and minerals, probiotics, or fiber, enhancing their nutritional profile to meet specific health-related objectives.


Within the realm of functional foods, there is a significant subcategory that includes functional beverages and shots, which have gained considerable prominence in recent years. These specialized products are designed to offer concentrated health benefits in a convenient liquid form. They may contain unique blends of nutrients and bioactive compounds that can support various aspects of well-being.


Functional foods are characterized by their richness in important nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and dietary fiber. By consuming these foods, individuals not only prevent nutrient deficiencies but also build immunity, promote proper growth and development, and enhance cognitive abilities.


The production of functional foods, beverages, and supplements, has witnessed significant growth in recent years. This surge in popularity is attributed to the increasing awareness of the critical link between diet and health. People are seeking out these products as a means to proactively manage their well-being and address specific health concerns.


Functional foods are often recognized by their incorporation of bioactive components, which can be either nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and proteins, or non-nutrients, including phytochemicals like polyphenols and prebiotic dietary fibers. These bioactive components play a pivotal role in influencing various physiological functions within the body, ultimately working to improve overall health, reduce the risk of diseases, and potentially enhance the outcomes for individuals already dealing with health issues. In essence, functional foods serve as a bridge between the pleasure of eating and the pursuit of a healthier, more vibrant life.


US Department of Agriculture