What is Functional Food?
Functional Food - noun BRITISH - another term for nutraceutical (a food containing health-giving additives and having medicinal benefit)
So if a functional food is food that has specific nutrients added to it, then might this describe much of our store-bought food today?
To find organic food resources in the shop, you must stop down and read labels. Does the packaged state it's organic?
Admit it. Are we sure we can trust what that means anymore? Our best bet is to buy USDA Organic.
USDA Organic or Certified Organic - must show an ingredients list and contain 95% or more certified organic ingredients - meaning 95% are free of synthetic additives (pesticides, chemical fertilizers, dyes, solvents, genetic engineering, irradiation) and the remaining 5% are only foods or additives on an approved list
Even with USDA Organic labels, it's easy to become confused. Are those eggs also farm-raised, non-GMO, free-range, cage-free, hormone-free, pesticide-free? What are the facts or truths about the product? For me, the time it takes to read and determine if my purchase is worth it, is worth it. I'm thankful for the companies that take responsibility for printing their truths about their products on their labels, no matter what regulators state they don't have to disclose. As long as there are socially-conscious businesses in the food industry, USDA Organic standards, and locally grown and sustainable farms producing food with forethought and care, we can make healthy choices for ourselves and our families.
So what's trending in functional food?
Adaptogenic ingredients - ingredients that adapt to the body's physiological needs, reduce inflammation, stress, promote homeostasis, and are nontoxic
Essentially, we're talking about herbs (and roots and leaves) - Asian, South American, or Indian herbs - herbs like ginseng, maca, ashwagandha, mushrooms, and other antioxidant favorites, like tumeric, matcha. But what products contain these herbs?
Let's talk about tonics and elixirs.
Tonics are liquid concoctions and a tonic is anything that makes us feel better - like stretching - coming from the Greek word, tonos or tonikos, meaning of or for stretching. Tonic, is also short for tonic water. Look at the labels. Typically, they read, tonic water, followed by the words, contains quinine. As early as 1727, quinine was determined to be a cure for malaria. This was remarkable, because blood-letting was the popular common cure. So with quinine as the active ingredient, tonic water was first commercially produced in 1858. Quinine comes from cinchona bark, often referred to as the fever tree. Tonic water of today contains significantly lower amounts of quinine, and we drink it, because we like it.
When we hear the word, elixir, some magic potion of long life comes to mind. History is full of countless tales of ancient recipes promising to restore health or even put an end to death ... although in some cases, death may have been the desired result. After all, highly poisonous ingredients like iron, copper, sulphur, even mercury, were ingredients of alchemy of the day.
Many of those early herbal concoctions contained a lot of alcohol. For example, a tonic in the 1800s might have included honey, aloe, gentian root, and a mixture of alcohols. Honey, often considered to be a nectar of the gods, was ambrosia - liquid food - suggesting the gods used it for immortality. Gentian root, also bitter like quinine, was used by folk healers to improve digestion, thus we have, bitters. Ancient Egyptians used bitters made from roots, bark, and spices. And both bitters - Angostura bitters, for example, are still infused with ethanal, gentian, herbs, and spices - and tonic water have never really strayed far from an association with alcohol - flavoring the cocktails we enjoy today.
Centuries ago, native healers' use of herbs got so much of it right. Word of mouth, driven by penned stories leading to scientific research, spurred medicinal use and helped bring the idea of cure-alls into actual practice. But propaganda was more likely the driving force behind the popular use of tonics and elixirs.
Today, more than ever, we're searching for remedies to help our bodies fight a daily onslaught of environmental toxicity, so it's no surprise that herbs continue to play a role in improving how our bodies function.
What else is trending in functional food?
Functional Food that is tied to a cause!
Sustainable and free trade coffee has done a lot to make the idea of proceeds helping people more mainstream, and now, functional food is taking another powerful step.
A QUADFECTA of Ethical Sourcing
Let's look at REBBL. Besides having a great name, it's acronym is also to the point: Roots, Extracts, Bark, Berries, and Leaves.
1) Great tasting organic ingredients that help an individual's body function better.
2) A social mission. For example, REBBL commits to help eliminate human trafficking and exploitation.
3) A resource for local growers of the product's ingredients.
4) A women-led company that also strives to empower women entrepreneurs to succeed in new ventures that have a positive impact on the world.
REBBL is great example of a movement-driven company, led now by former CEO of Clif Bar, Sheryl O'Laughlin. The company is taking a stand to make a difference. Along with employing a global network of growers, REBBL's social mission of helping to eliminate human trafficking in business supply chains has become synonymous with its tonic-style drinks. Their product line offers a variety of flavors full of some of the super-herbs we've been talking about and some even add a boost of either 12 or 16 grams of plant protein. To support its cause, REBBL donates 2.5% of revenue to Not For Sale, which supports areas vulnerable to human exploitation and trafficking.
Functional food is helping more than just one body - my body. It's helping everybody.