Functional Components in Food
People always measure food with calories, foods do provide calories but besides this foods also contain various phytochemicals and functional components which are beneficial for our health. These functional components present in foods may improve the functioning of various organ systems and may prevent the onset of various diseases and infections.
Carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, diallyl sulfides and ellagic acid are present in a variety of fruits and vegetables such as carrots, dark orange fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, butternut, squash, cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, onions, garlic, strawberries, raspberries etc. These compounds may neutralize free radicals that damage the cells. They also protect against various cancers and promote bone health and healthy heart health.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that improve the gastrointestinal health and may improve calcium absorption too. Probiotics are present in yogurt with live culture, fermented dairy products, fermented vegetables such as kim chi and sauerkraut and fermented soy products such as miso and tempeh.
Prebiotics are present in whole grains, barley, greens, berries, bananas and other fruits, legumes, garlic, onions, leek etc. They are non-digestible food ingredients that provide food for gut bacteria to grow on and may improve the gastrointestinal health and boost the immune function. The most common prebiotics are inulin and oligofructose.
Phytoestrogens (genistein and diadzein) present in soybeans and soybean products may contribute to healthy bones, improve brain function and immune function. They act similar to estrogens but their action is weaker. They also help to reduce the oxidation of LDL.