Science & Technology in Action

5th Edition

Functional Food

Higher Education Authority Teagasc

Functional food is any fresh or processed food claimed to have a health promoting or disease-preventing property beyond the basic function of supplying nutrients. An EU framework governing such claims is being sought.
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Lesson excerpt

The Importance of Diet
In the interests of both health and longevity we should all be aiming to eat a balanced diet, i.e. a diet with all the major food groups in the correct proportions and quantities. People who do not have a balanced diet may be either undernourished or malnourished.

  1. Undernourished means not having enough food; this condition is prevalent in many countries and sadly often leads to death by starvation.
  2. Malnourished means having too much, or too little, of one food group (e.g. too much fat, or too much sugar, or not enough vitamins or roughage). This is not uncommon today in developed countries including Ireland. Too much of one type of food, such as fat or carbohydrates, can lead to health issues such asobesity and cardiovascular disease. Insufficient vitamin intake can cause deficiency diseases such as scurvy (lack of vitamin C) or rickets (lack of vitamin D).

What are Nutrients?
A nutrient is a chemical that an organism needs to live and grow, or is used in an organism’s metabolism, and which must be taken in from its environment. The main food groups are:

Protein – body tissues, hormones and enzymes. Proteins are composed of amino acids.

Carbohydrate – energy supply and energy store (glycogen).

Lipids (fats and oils) – energy store and insulation.

Vitamins – co-enzymes and anti-oxidants

Minerals – bones, teeth and haemoglobin, etc.

roughage – indigestible material which helps prevent constipation, ease digestive transit, and reduce the risk of bowel cancer.

True or False?

  1. Fortified foods have beneficial components added. true
  2. Low blood pressure due to dehydration, haemorrhage or shock after burning can lead to kidney failure.
  3. Undernourished children are not getting enough food. false
  4. Proteins are made from amino acids. true
  5. Essential amino acids can only be obtained from food. true
  6. Indigestible plant material is called roughage. true
  7. Lack of vitamin D causes scurvy. false
  8. Prebiotics are micro-organisms which when administered in sufficient quantity can confer a health benefit. false
  9. Stenols and sterols cause cholesterol build-up. false
  10. A high fat diet can contribute to cardiovascular disease. true
  11. Roughage helps prevent bowel cancer. true
  12. Beans are not a good source of roughage. false
  13. Gluten-free foods are functional foods. true