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Ganesh Gaikwad,Rajesh Kshirsagar, Bharat Agarkar December 12 , 2020
That foods might provide therapeutic benefits is clearly not a new concept. The tenet, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” was embraced -2500 years ago by Hippocrates, the father of medicine. However, this ‘food as medicine' philosophy fell into relative obscurity in the 19thcentury with the advent of modern drug therapy. In the 1900s, the important role of diet in disease prevention and health promotion came to the forefront once again. During the first 50 years of the 20th century, scientific focus was on the identification of essential elements, particularly vitamins, and their role in the prevention of various dietary deficiency diseases.

Food is a term which is basically related to the component necessary for several life sustaining functions like production of energy, supply of nutrients, support of various metabolic activities besides growth and maintenance of the body. In the early 20th century, nutrition science was engrossed with preventing deficiencies and supporting body growth. During last two decades the well being has been highly increased which has led to design new and healthier foods reducing the risk of several chronic diseases. The foods thus designed are called functional foods which are traditional foods modified in such a way that they have health benefits compared to the non-modified products.

A number of reasons like transitional health, urbanisation and its effect, changing demography with aging population, food security, loss of traditional food culture, and awareness of deterioration in personal health led by busy lifestyles with poor choices of convenience foods and competitive food market have converged and propelled for development of functional foods. Other factors which have also influence dare insufficient exercise, increased incidence of self medication,increased level of information from health authorities,media on nutrition, link between diet and health, and scientific developments in nutrition research.

In 1994, the National Academy of Sciences’ Food and Nutrition Board defined functional foods as “any modified food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it generally contains.” Foods with physiologically active compounds like carotenoids, flavonoids, phytosterol/stanols,phenolic compounds, essential oils etc makes the foods functional providing specific health benefits like antioxidative activity, detoxification, anticoronary disease, improving digestion, regulates metabolism, enhance immunity etc. Consumers are now demanding the functional foods to avoid the life style disorders. From the time immemorial,peoples used to take herbal products made up of medicinal plants to treat the diseases. Now a day,researchers are interested to establish those facts with proven technological applications. All the plant based food ingredients are added to the foods for value additions like oat based foods products,cereal based milk products, herbal based ghee,soy based milk products etc.

Functional foods-Foods that may provide health benefit beyond basic nutrition /Any food or food ingredient that has positive impact on an individual’s health, physical performance or state of mind in addition to its nutritive value.

Phytochemicals-Physiologically active components in foods from plants, known as Phytochemicals.These are the physiologically active compound spresent in plant sources like flavonoids, carotenoids, sterols and stanols, isothiocynates, phenolic acid,dietary fibres etc. Health benefits of phytochemical scan be achieved in food by incorporation of food material or their extraction either in crude or pure form. Phytochemicals used in foods are:ß-glucan, ascorbic acid,cellulose, lutein, gallic acid,pectin, daidzein, glutathione, allicin, lycopene, hemicellulose, lignin, a-tocopherol, ß-carotene.

Plant based food ingredients now have muchmore attention for their functional activities beyond their common nutrition.Researchers are exploiting these functional phytochemicals agains tdifferent chronicle diseases developing novel functional food products. Novel functional foods are developed adding these multifunctional plant based ingredients and are available in the market.

List of some plant-based functional ingredients, sources, and benefits

Functional Ingredients



Carotenoids & lycopene

Tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, green leafy vegetables, fruits, and palm oils

Antioxidant, anti inflammatory, anticarcinogenic activity, inhibits LDL oxidation, decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease


Red and green peppers

Superoxide anion scavenger

Gallic acid, sulfides and thiols, quercetin, and organosulfur compounds

Garlic, onion, and broccoli

Decreases blood pressure

Resveratrol, other grape polyphenols,ginsenosides, and ascorbic acid

Grapes, red wines, citrus fruits

Decreases blood pressure, prevents advanced malignance

Beta glucan

Oat bran, oatmeal, oat flour, barley, rye

May reduce risk of coronary heart disease (CHD)

Caffeic acid, Ferulic acid

Apples, pears, citrus fruits, some vegetables, whole grains, coffee

Bolsters cellular antioxidant defenses;supports maintenance of eye and heart health


Tree nuts, olive oil, canola oil

May reduce risk of CHD

PUFAs, Omega-3 fatty acids- ALA

Walnuts, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil

upports maintenance of heart and eye health; also mental function

Anthocyanins-Cyanidin, Pelargonidin,Delphinidin, Malvidin

Berries, cherries, red grapes

Bolster cellular antioxidant defences; supports maintenance of healthy brain function



Onions, apples, tea, Broccoli

Neutralizes free radicals; bolster cellular antioxidant defences


Epicatechins, Epigallocatechin

Tea, cocoa, chocolate, apples,grapes

Supports maintenance of heart health



Soybeans and soy-based Foods

Supports maintenance of bone and immune health, and healthy brain function; for women, supports menopausal health

Free Stanols/Sterols

Corn, soy, wheat, fortified foods and Beverages

May reduce risk of CHD


Flax seeds, rye, carrot, some vegetables, seeds and nuts, lentils,triticale, broccoli, cauliflower

Support maintenance of heart and immune health

Insoluble fiber

Wheat bran, corn bran, fruit skins

Helps in digestive health; reduce the risk of cance

Soluble fiber

Psyllium seed husk, peas, beans, apples, citrus Fruits

May reduce risk of CHD and some types of cancer

(Ganesh Gaikwad is Ph.D. Research Scholar, College of Food Technology, VNMKV, Parbhani. DrRajesh Kshirsagar is Head, Department of Food Engineering, College of Food Technology, VNMKV, Parbhani.Dr Bharat Agarkar is Assistant Professor, College of Food Technology, VNMKV, Parbhani. They can be reached at

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