Functional foods have a major role in health enhancement, and therefore, there has been an increase in research aimed at identifying new functional foods and nutraceuticals. The frontier between functional foods and nutraceuticals is tenuous. Functional foods are foods, or dietary components, that may provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition. Nutraceuticals are, in an abbreviated way, also foods or parts of food that provide health benefits, including the prevention or treatment of disease. Presently many academic, scientific and regulatory organizations are working in an integrated way to establish the scientific basis to support and validate the benefits of foods or food components. It seems that people who consume a wide variety of foods containing these bioactive molecules (like carotenoids, fibers, flavonoids, fatty acids, phytoestrogens, vitamins and minerals, among others) show a reduced risk of developing some diseases and tend to have a better health. For example, the use of antioxidants provides protection against harmful free radicals, usually associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimers disease and age-related functional decline. The present work presents a general overview of functional foods, gives examples of some foods with a recognized functional ability, and finally takes a look at new developments and possible future changes regarding these types of products.
Keywords: Functional food, nutraceutical, functional component, bioactive molecule, diet