Impact of Functional Foods & Nutraceuticals on Health Video

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  • 0:02 Foods & Health
  • 0:59 Functional Foods
  • 2:39 Nutraceuticals
  • 4:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Research into the nutritional benefits of foods and food components has led to new classifications of foods. Two relatively new categories are functional foods and nutraceuticals. Learn the definitions of these foods and how they impact health.

Foods & Health

Centuries ago, Hippocrates famously said, 'Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food'. Today, this wise saying has taken on a new life. This renewed interest in the health benefits of food is driven by consumers who are tired of the rising costs of health care and the side effects of medications. These savvy consumers are interested in taking matters into their own hands and looking to food for enhanced health benefits.

To satisfy this consumer desire, food scientists have increased their efforts to uncover previously hidden health benefits in foods and to find ways to add nutrients to foods. This has led to the classification of certain foods and food components as either functional foods or nutraceuticals. In this lesson, we will discuss these nutritional classifications and their potential impact on your health.

Functional Foods

Research into functional foods is still young and therefore a clear definition is still taking shape. What we can say about functional foods is that they are foods that have health benefits beyond the basic nutrients they contain. You can argue that all foods serve a function; even table sugar has a function of providing calories.

However, to be classified as a functional food, the food must provide additional functions or benefits beyond its traditional nutritional value. For example, blueberries and other plant-based foods contain phytochemicals, which are naturally-occurring chemicals made by plants that protect you from disease. When you eat blueberries, their phytochemicals provide you with benefits above and beyond the expected calories, vitamins and minerals. For instance, one bonus benefit of blueberries is that they protect your cells against oxidative damage, which can lead to cancer.

Salmon is considered a functional food thanks to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids, which are heart-healthy essential fatty acids. The omega-3s in salmon reduce your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke by raising your good HDL cholesterol and lowering your bad LDL cholesterol. Oats are another example of a functional food because they contain fiber, which is a food component obtained from plant foods that cannot be digested. A diet high in fiber aids digestion and protects the body against chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.


Nutraceuticals are best described by breaking down the term. The first part of the word, 'nutra', refers to 'nutrition', and the second part, 'ceutical', refers to 'pharmaceuticals'. Therefore, we can loosely define nutraceuticals as 'nutrition that provides medical benefits'.

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