Sep 15, 2023

Food of the future: Functional foods

Food of the future: Functional foods

They not only meet the body's needs for basic nutrients, but are also products that have a positive effect on human physiology and metabolic functions, effectively contributing to the prevention of diseases and for a healthier life. Although the concept of functional foods is new, its application dates back to ancient times.

As the side effects of drugs are known and health problems are increasing, the tendency towards functional foods has increased and the products have been diversified. The basic logic of functional food production is the partial or complete removal of components with negative physiological activity from the food and the addition of components with positive physiological activity.

The history of the emergence of functional food

The concept of functional foods first appeared in Japan in the 1980s. In 1990, the term FOSHU (Japanese Foods Designated Health Use) emerged to describe foods that have a positive effect on health due to the ingredients they contain or the removal of allergenic components from the food. In America, they have been perceived by consumers as a food trend. The history of functional foods in the European Union (EU) began in 1995 with a study called FUFOSA (Science of Functional Foods in Europe) by ILSI (International Life Sciences Institute), an international non-governmental organization.

This historical process shows us that the consumption of functional foods and the functional foods market is a phenomenon with a recent history that we can call new. It is a fast growing and attractive market, especially for the European continent where we are.

The fastest growing subsector

According to researchers, the fastest growing sub-sector of the food sector is functional foods, followed by natural products. Functional foods contain antioxidants, phenolic compounds, cancer, heart disease, cataracts, eye disease, age-related diseases, etc.

Research has proven that they can prevent many diseases. Studies show that fruits and vegetables for a healthy life protect against diseases and promote a healthy life in a positive way. Fruits and vegetables are considered functional foods because they have beneficial effects on health due to the antioxidant and antimicrobial effects of the phenolic compounds they contain.

What types of foods can be considered functional foods?

Functional foods; There may be a natural food that contains a functional factor (lycopene-rich tomatoes, beta-carotene-rich carrots, etc.) or a harmful compound with an added functional factor (iodized salt, eggs with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium-enriched orange juice, etc.). There may also be foods where the nutrient has been removed (reduced sodium salt, etc.). In addition, functional foods are also produced by modifying certain compounds in the food (yogurt protein, bioactive peptides, etc.), increasing their bioavailability (lycopene in processed tomato products, etc.), and using different combinations of them.

Functional food types

Fortified food

These are foods to which substances such as nutritious vitamins and minerals are added. (e.g. fruit juice with vitamin C).

Fortified foods

They are produced by adding a new nutrient that is not specifically present in food. (Example: probiotic yogurt)

Modified food

They are produced by removing an unwanted nutrient from the food and adding a new substance. (e.g. skimmed milk)

Improved food

They are produced by development and cultivation under special conditions. (Example: egg with omega-3 additives).

Functional foods according to their intended use

Medical food

This type of functional food is food sold in the USA and used under medical supervision, i.e. under the supervision of a physician. These foods should have very well and clearly defined nutritional properties and be based on known scientific principles. These types of functional foods are not normally sold to consumers, but only by prescription.


These types of functional foods are foods with medicinal or health benefits that are produced to prevent or treat disease.

Colic food

Foods that are in the indigestible form of carbohydrates (fibrous structure) and provide nutrients or substances for the intestinal flora.

Prebiotic foods

Foods that selectively increase the growth and activity of certain bacteria in the bacterial flora of the colon.

Probiotic food

Foods to which one or more selected microorganisms have been added, which are particularly beneficial for the intestinal flora and have a positive effect on the body.

Probiotics have the largest share in the functional food category!

Foods necessary for gut health account for the largest share of the functional food sector, with more than 350 product types worldwide. Among these foods, probiotics and prebiotics are at the forefront. Probiotics are living microorganisms that colonize their host's intestinal tract, improve the microbial balance and develop beneficial activities. Substances that selectively promote the growth of probiotics are called prebiotics. In this way, they help prevent the proliferation of microorganisms that cause disease.

Probiotics are naturally most; They are found in fermented dairy products such as kefir, buttermilk, yogurt and cheese. Prebiotics are found in many fibrous foods such as artichokes, celery, leeks, asparagus and bananas. Prebiotics and probiotics found in natural products can also be produced artificially. Probiotics such as Bifidobacter and Lactobacillus strains, which are synthetically produced and added to yogurt-like products, can be found in foods, for example.

What is the difference between "fortified foods" and "functional foods"?

The main difference between the two is that "functional foods" consist of classically known foods and are consumed as part of a normal diet; "fortified foods," on the other hand, are offered to consumers in the form of capsules, powders, beverages, etc., rather than in the classic form of food.

Why are functional foods so in demand?

They not only provide adequate and balanced nutrition, but also the opportunity for a happy and healthy life. However, they also meet the expectation of reducing health care spending, as they are budget-friendly.

We can also evaluate the demand for functional foods on a needs-based basis. This is because the promise of a healthy and balanced diet, which is the starting point for functional foods, creates a demand to eliminate the consequences of the consumption habits of the 1990s, namely a fast and fast-moving diet outside of meals. Functional foods are a food industry born out of this need, creating its own demand in its own natural flow.

When examining the unique characteristics of functional foods and conducting a general research on the functional food market, it is easy to find that functional foods differ in terms of their use according to the diversity of demand, and the product diversity arises due to the increasing demand in the market. While the first purpose of functional foods was medical reasons, later foods for health-oriented digestive system entered the market, functional foods were represented in the market with the variety of probiotic products, later diet products made a name for themselves in the market, and today functional foods from beverages to chocolate are among the interests of consumers. seems to be represented in the market with an increasing supply for various requirements.