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Food Biotechnology: Functional Foods

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Functional foods are known to possess an additional characteristic by adding new ingredients or increasing the existing ingredients. This term may apply to those traits which are purposely incorporated into existing edible plants, such as purple or gold potatoes having enriched anthocyanin or carotenoid contents, respectively. They are designed to contain physiological benefits which reduce the danger of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions, and will be similar in appearance to the actual existing plants.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the claims that manufacturers can make about functional foods’ nutrient content and effects on disease, health or body function.

Types of functional foods

Functional foods are of two types:

  1. Conventional foods are natural, whole-food ingredients that are present with important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats.
  2. Modified foods have been fortified with additional ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, probiotics, or fiber, to increase a food’s health benefits.

Conventional foods include –

  • Fruits: Berries, Apples, Oranges, Bananas
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Spinach, Zucchini
  • Nuts: Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios
  • Seeds: Chia seeds, Hemp seeds, Pumpkin seeds
  • Legumes: Black beans, Chickpeas, Navy beans
  • Whole grains: Oats, Barley, Buckwheat, Brown rice

Modified functional foods include –

  • Fortified juices
  • Fortified dairy products, such as milk and yogurt
  • Fortified milk alternatives, such as almond, rice, coconut, and cashew milk
  • Fortified grains, such as bread and pasta
  • Fortified cereal and granola
  • Fortified eggs

Potential benefits

  1. Prevent nutrients deficiencies – This is the primary potential benefit of such foods as they are high in important nutrients, including vitamins and minerals and healthy fats and fiber and protects against various diseases.
  2. Promotes proper growth and development – Cereals, grains, and flours are often fortified with B vitamins like folic acid, which is essential for fetal health.
  3. Builds immunity and overall health – A well-rounded, healthy diet should be rich in a very style of functional foods, including nutrient-rich whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. These foods not only supply the human body with the vitamins and minerals it needs but also support overall health.
  4. Boosts absorption of important nutrients – Modified, fortified functional foods can be adjusted into any diet. They help fill gaps in the diet and prevent nutritional deficiencies and enhance health by boosting the consumption of important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, heart-healthy fats, or probiotics.
  5. Prevents diseases – Intake of functional foods has drastically reduced the chances of getting infected with several diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, gastroenteritis, lipid regulation and many more.

Disadvantages of functional foods

With several potential benefits, there are also disadvantages to buying functional foods. Functional foods have added nutrients that can confuse people on taking their diets. In the case of Calcium – fortified orange juice which is an improvement is considered as functional foods, though being unhealthy.

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Another disadvantage is that dieticians worry that consuming a lot of antioxidants such as wine and chocolate might escalate health problems. In case of Gingko biloba which acts as a blood thinner, if taken in excess can cause serious health risks.

Industrial scenario

In the recent few years, the functional food industry is witnessing a sharp increase in its graph. It has been seen that the world market of functional food industry has reached 176.7 billion in 2013.

In particular this functional food sector will experience 6.9% growth and the supplement sector will rise by 3.8% and the functional beverage sector is going to be the fastest growing segment with 10.8% increase. Such type of growth not only depends on industrial innovation, but also by health claims covering a large range of health issues. Yet, doubts of consumers persist mainly because benefits related to consuming the products is also difficult to estimate.

Recent developments

Recent studies in the research of intestinal microbiota has stepped up the demands for functional foods. Lactic fermentation products are included within the functional foods and classified into 3 groups supported their mechanisms of action: probiotics, prebiotics and bio -genics.

  1. Probiotics are viable microorganisms, like lactobacilli and bifido- bacteria, that beneficially affect the host by improving the intestinal bacterial balance.
  2. Prebiotics are nondigestible food components , like oligosaccharides and dietary fiber, that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the expansion or activities of beneficial intestinal bacteria within the colon and thus improve the health of the hosts.
  3. Bio-genics are biologically active peptides, which include immunopotentiators, plant flavonoids, and others. They act directly or indirectly through modulation of intestinal microbiota on host’s bodies.

Thus, functional foods are known to increase bioregulatory processes like stresses, appetite and absorption; like immunity and suppresses several allergies. It is known to prevent diseases, such as diarrhea, constipation, cancer, cholesterolemia and diabetes and decelerates aging through immune-stimulation in addition as suppression of mutagenesis, carcinogenesis, oxidation processes.


Functional foods have become an indispensable part of our diet. They are known contain several nutrients and minerals and help supplement the daily intake of an individual, thus making it a holistic balanced diet. They are broadly classified into two types – conventional and modified functional foods. Conventional foods mainly comprise of fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes, whereas modified functional foods include fortified juices, fortified milk and other beverages. Even though they are known to have several benefits such as providing immunity, reducing the chances of diseases, increasing the absorption of nutrients, it does confuse people and experts whether to substitute the normal diet with these alternatives. Nevertheless, the recent developments have shown 3 mechanisms of actions namely: probiotics, prebiotics and bio-genics. Thus, it can be seen that functional foods do suffice the nutritional requirements of an individual for an overall development.



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Food Biotechnology: Functional Foods. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“Food Biotechnology: Functional Foods.” Edubirdie, 21 Feb. 2022,
Food Biotechnology: Functional Foods. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2023].
Food Biotechnology: Functional Foods [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 21 [cited 2023 May 29]. Available from:
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