Today as you cruise the aisles of the grocery store, words leap off food packages to entice the health-conscious consumer. Packages of oats boast the power to lower cholesterol, milk touts added Omega-3 fatty acids, and yogurt guarantees digestive regularity. These items, called “functional foods,” promise healing, enhancement, and improvement, but can they?Â
A recent New York Times article “Foods With Benefits, or So They Say,” takes on the issue of these ubiquitous health claims. These foods are called “functional foods;” they are not medical foods, nor do they promise to cure or prevent diseases. These foods claim to promote or maintain health or wellness. It is legal to make these assertions if they are backed by some credible science. However, the FTC is concerned that the marketing claims convince consumers to buy food that is no healthier than other brands, but that they believe is healthier.
One positive thing that I see is that before, products were mass marketed regardless of health or benefits. Today, these products have a story, and the story they’re most frequently telling is one of health, and wellness. Of course, it’s difficult when the claims are exaggerated, but it’s fascinating how much of these healthy products come from emerging markets, whether it’s dragon fruit in Chinatown or fruit from Brazil. These ethnic products are becoming more mainstream and praised for their healing properties. Even last week’s New York Times Dining section had a front page article about dragon fruit, which is riding the wave of popular superfruits such as pomegranate and acai.
So what should you do? For starters, try cooking your own food! Whether it’s exploring the culinary boundaries of dragon fruit or heading to your local market, if you’re cooking your own food, you know what goes into it, and it’s probably healthy. Right now the bounty of late spring is filling market stands, and you can find great fruit, vegetables, and more. Try making a fruit salad, and or try one of these Five Healing Foods from Chinese Medicine. to incorporate into your favorite recipe. One thing’s for sure, if you’re talking to the farmer who grew the food that you’re about to eat, all their health claims will be true!
What do you think about “functional foods?”