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Functional foods are foods that may have a positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition. Supporters of functional foods say that these foods can support optimal health and may help lower the risk of disease.
One common example of a functional food is oatmeal. Oatmeal is a functional food because the soluble fiber in it can help lower cholesterol levels. Some foods are modified to have health benefits. An example is orange juice that's been fortified with calcium for bone health.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the claims that manufacturers can make about functional foods' nutrient content and effects on disease, health or body function.
If you want to try functional foods, choose wisely. For example, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and legumes are simple functional foods and can be easy to include in most diets. And keep in mind that while functional foods may help support wellness, they can't make up for poor eating habits.
Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
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