Packed with Benefits, These Functional Foods May Bring You Better Health and Well-Being

The pandemic has brought about a 360-degree change in the way we consume food. Being in better health has become our motto. Choosing functional ingredients is the latest trend among fitness enthusiasts because they work exactly according to each person’s needs.


In 1994, the Food and Nutrition Council of the National Academy of Sciences defined functional foods as any modified food or food ingredient that can provide health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains.

Nutritionist and certified diabetes educator Madhavi Karmokar Sharma, founder of Informed Health, cited this to describe the new trend. “These are the ingredients that have disease prevention, energy boost and health promotion benefits. The elements that will be added to the final product should be an extract from a natural source of the active ingredient, ”says Madhavi.

Functional foods are not much different from “super foods”. Nuts, seeds, fruits, ingredients like apple cider vinegar and honey – all are functional foods. Madhavi lists the factors in the demand for functional foods. “First there are the ever-increasing medical problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and digestive problems. Second, people are more and more aware of nutrition and health. These two factors are driving the expansion of the supply of fortified, easy-to-use and healthy foods and beverages that are rich in nutrients. Growing urbanization and the income levels of young people are also pushing the food industry to incorporate functional ingredients into their foods and beverages.

Chef Ritesh Tulsian, Chef and Managing Partner, Authenticano Hospitality Pvt. Ltd., claims that the functional foods or ingredients are products that provide basic nutrition as well as additional benefits such as increased immunity, increased energy, etc. “Since the Covid epidemic, people have become more aware than ever of the importance of health. A healthy body is no longer associated with weight loss or muscle gain, but with a fit mind and body, ”Tulsian said.

Changing times bring new fads in the food industry, but they are soon fading, says chef Vidushi Sharma, co-founder of Truffle & Co. “The pandemic has rocked people. Spending more time at home gave us time to do some soul-searching. Now people are moving away from diets like Keto and Paleo and consuming functional foods that are dense in nutrition and have multiple benefits, ”says Vidushi.

Opinion on the importance of functional foods is unanimous. Aditi Handa, The Sourdough Protagonist, head baker and co-founder of The Baker’s Dozen, an iconic artisan bakery brand, finds a difference between functional foods and functional ingredients.

“Functional foods offer health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Functional ingredients are a bioactive element used to make functional foods. As the Indian public observes a vigilant shift in the way they consume, there is a growing demand for functional foods and ingredients that harness aspects of emotional and physical well-being, ”explains Handa.

Advantage 2.0

Something as healthy as functional ingredients will have its benefits. Tulsian says, “Every human being has a different lifestyle and body type. These ingredients have a specific role to play and will work exactly according to our requirements. Handa adds that she finds powerful health benefits in foods and functional ingredients.

“Whether it’s fighting nutrient deficiencies or stimulating growth and development, the characteristics of the ingredients naturally place them in the category of providers of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber. . The powerful ingredients help neutralize harmful compounds and thus protect against disease. In addition to foods high in omega 3 and fiber, it can support heart health and protect against common health problems like diabetes, obesity, and more.

Madhavi finds the ingredients enriched with carotenoids, dietary fiber and flavonoids. “Carotenoids are fat soluble pigments found in most plants, fruits, flowers, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria, as well as in some non-photosynthetic bacteria, yeasts and molds,” she says.

These have been shown to fight cancer, cardiovascular disease and degenerative eye disorders and regulate cholesterol. Dietary fibers such as cellulose, hemicellulose, polyfructoses, galactooligosaccharides, gums, mucilages, pectins, lignin, etc., help improve intestinal transit and fight constipation, explains the nutritionist.

“Fiber also helps with weight management. Flavonoids are polyphenolic plant compounds that have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. They also contain antioxidants, which are good for you, ”explains Madhavi.

Different people, different needs

Tulsian wants everyone to understand these ingredients first, taking into account their body type and how it would help them with their fitness goals.

It is important to consult a certified nutritionist to properly use the functional ingredients. “Don’t follow any random diets suggested by glamorous social media influencers, but consume the ingredients under proper supervision and guidance,” he says.

Handa insists on checking her body type before including functional ingredients in her daily meals and diet. “If our bodies demand better gut health, we need to go for gut-friendly products like sourdough and fermented foods like kefir and kombucha. If we want to prevent nutrient deficiencies, we need to consume nutrient rich foods like nuts and seeds.

Going too far in eating habits can be dangerous, warns Vidushi. “Some functional foods can even have side effects if consumed more than you need or can even trigger an adverse reaction. Moderation and variation are the keys. It’s a good idea to add chia seeds to coconut water but limit it to once a day, ”she says.

Mah Poh Tofu


Silky tofu – 150 g

Chinese Fermented Chili Bean Paste – 3 tbsp

Chopped carrots – 1

Chopped green beans – 4–5

Oil – 2 tbsp

Chopped ginger – 1 tbsp

Chopped garlic – 2 tbsp

Chopped celery – 1 tbsp

Vegetable broth – 1 cup

Corn starch – 2 tbsp

Salt to taste

Sugar to taste


Blanch the carrots and beans. Cut the tofu into cubes. Heat the oil in a wok / pan and brown the ginger, garlic and celery. Add the fermented chili bean paste and sauté. Add the blanched vegetables and mix them well. Add the vegetable broth; bring to a boil, reduce the heat then add the tofu. Braise for 5 minutes over low heat then thicken it with cornstarch porridge. Season it with salt and sugar. Serve with fried or steamed rice.

REMARK: The functional ingredients here are the fermented chili bean paste. Fermented foods help keep the gut and the intestinal tract functioning more efficiently. This results in a smoother digestive system with increased metabolism and stronger immunity. Taste and flavor wise, it has the right amount of heat with a complex umami.

Recipe by Ritesh Tulsian, Chef and Managing Partner, Authenticano Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.

Kale and blueberry salad


Kale – 150 g

Blueberries – 25 g

Grated carrot – 20 g

Snow peas – 20 g

Crushed almonds – 5 g

For the dressing,

Olive oil – 50 g

Apple cider vinegar – 15 g

Dijon mustard – 5 g

Garlic, crushed – 1 clove

Jaggery – 5 g

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste


Wash the kale thoroughly to remove dirt and impurities. Toast the almonds in a dry pan. In a salad bowl, arrange the kale, blueberries, carrots and snow peas. In a glass jar, add all the dressing ingredients and shake. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well. Garnish with toasted almonds and serve chilled.

Recipe by chef Vidushi Sharma, co-founder, Truffle & CO

Mushroom and thyme toast with cheese and chili sourdough


Mushroom – 100 g

Garlic – 6 cloves

Butter – 1 to 2 tablespoons

Salt and pepper to taste

Ricotta – 50 g

Thyme – Just a pinch

Cheese sourdough with chili – 4 slices


Chop the mushrooms and garlic. Melt the butter in a pan and sweat the mushrooms. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and sauté until the mushrooms turn brown and start to get crisp. Grill and butter your chili cheese sourdough and build your mushroom toast. Spread some ricotta or heat the toast on your pan to melt a cheese of your choice. Garnish with mushrooms and sprinkle with fresh thyme.

Recipe by Aditi Handa, The Levain Protagonist, head baker and co-founder, The Baker’s Dozen

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Posted on: Sunday October 24, 2021 07:25 IST

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