Functional foods are foods eaten for specified health purposes, because of their (rich) content of one or more nutrients or non-nutrient substances which may confer health benefits.
The concept of functional foods was born in Japan. In the 1980s, health authorities in Japan recognised that an improved quality of life must accompany increasing life expectancy for the expanding number of elderly people in the population if health care costs were to be controlled. The concept of foods that were developed specifically to promote health or reduce the risk of disease was introduced.
Functional foods are considered as those foods which are intended to be consumed as part of the normal diet and that contain biologically active components which offer the potential of enhanced health or reduced risk of disease. Examples of functional foods include foods that contain specific minerals, vitamins, fatty acids or dietary fibre, foods with added biologically active substances such as phytochemicals or other antioxidants and probiotics.
The International Food Information Council defines functional foods as foods that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition.
A nutraceutical is any substance that is a food or a part of a food and provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease. Such products may range from isolated nutrients, dietary supplements and specific diets to genetically engineered designer foods, herbal products, and processed foods. (Dr. Stephen DeFelice)
Products (other than tobacco) intended to supplement the diet that bears or contains one or more of the following dietary ingredients: vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs or other botanical and intended for ingestion in the form of a capsule, powder, softgel, or gelcap, and not represented as a conventional food or as a sole item of a meal or the diet. (United States Food and Drug Administration)