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What Are Fortified Foods? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Fortified Foods
  • 0:51 Purpose
  • 1:50 Examples & Benefits
  • 3:28 Risks
  • 4:57 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.

Fortifying foods with nutrients has helped to eradicate many nutrition-related conditions. However, fortification may have a dark side. Learn about nutrients that are added to foods and the health benefits and risks of these fortified foods.

Fortified Foods

What foods will you choose to eat today? Will you have cereal for breakfast? Will lunch be a sandwich and a glass of milk? Is pasta on the menu for dinner? The food choices you make throughout your day determine the types and amounts of nutrients your body receives.

Nutrients are a natural part of the foods we eat. They can also be consumed in fortified foods, which are foods to which extra nutrients have been added. For example, your breakfast cereal may be fortified with iron, the glass of milk you have with lunch likely has vitamin D added to it, and your evening bowl of pasta could be fortified with folic acid. In this lesson, we will take a closer look at food fortification, why it is done, and how it affects human health.

Purpose

The original purpose of food fortification was to decrease the occurrence of nutrient deficiencies, particularly in populations that lack access to sufficient amounts of essential nutrients. Food fortification helps people living in developed countries, like the U.S., as well as those in underdeveloped countries, where a variety of foods are not always available. In fact, food fortification is a cost effective way to get nutrients to people around the world. For instance, food staples like rice and flour can be fortified with vital nutrients. This fortification eliminates the expense of transporting perishable foods, such as meats, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables, to remote areas of the world. The results of food fortification have been significant, with many nutrition-related diseases being eradicated or greatly diminished. Let's take a look at some nutrients that are commonly added to foods and their benefits.

Examples & Benefits

Let's start with vitamin D, which is added to milk. This is a commonsense combination because vitamin D promotes the absorption of the calcium naturally found in milk. Together, vitamin D and calcium promote strong bones. This fortification has helped to eradicate weakened bones that at one time led to conditions like bowed legs.

Cereals, breads, and pastas are often fortified with B vitamins and iron. When you're not getting enough of these nutrients, you can feel mentally and physically sluggish. Fortification can boost your daily intake and potentially reverse these deficiency symptoms. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for vision and your immune system. It's added to staple foods, such as cereal grains, rice, and oils. This addition helps people around the world avoid vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to visual impairment and increased vulnerability to illness.

If you look at a container of salt in your kitchen cupboard, you might notice that it has been iodized. In other words, it has been fortified with the essential mineral iodine. Iodine fortification of salt has led to a substantial decline in the occurrence of goiters. Another nutrient fortification that has made a difference is the fortification of foods like cereal, bread, pasta, rice, and flour with folic acid. Insufficient intake of folic acid or its natural form, folate, is linked to crippling birth defects, particularly spina bifida.

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