Which ingredients have added health benefits?
In recent years, consumers have become far more aware of the need to eat healthily. After all, eating a balanced diet is essential for good health. Many food products available today are designed to be ‘healthy’ – with lower levels of fat, sugar or salt – but it’s important to remember that food is more than just calories…
There are compounds in food that are essential to strengthening our bodies and improving our health. Such compounds may not be essential for normal functioning in humans, but they do have a beneficial effect on disease prevention and general health.
These beneficial ingredients may already be naturally present in the food in sufficient quantity to achieve the desired effect or they may be deliberately added. Examples are fish oils, vitamins and minerals.
Foods containing these beneficial ingredients are often described as functional foods. As the name suggests, they are foods that have some extra, health promoting benefit on top of the basic nutritional quality of the food.
The health benefits that manufacturers can claim for their foods are strictly controlled by rules laid down in the EU Regulation on Health and Nutrition Claims. Food manufacturers are required to provide scientific evidence that their health-promoting ingredient truly works and is present at a level that will have the desired effect. The words and phrases used to describe the health benefits of their products are also regulated and a list of authorised claims is published in the EU Register of health and nutrition claims.
Functional foods are important because our calorific intake over the past century has declined steadily in line with our increasingly sedentary jobs, but our nutrient requirement is fixed. Simply eating less food will not provide us with the nutrients we need. Therefore we must eat more nutritious (nutrient dense) foods to keep our diet in balance.
To understand more about the differences between nutrition claims and health claims click here.
For more information on health claims and their authorisation click here.
Summary pages of authorised claims for the main health conditions can be seen here.