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From early in human history it was known that certain foods confer additional health benefits to humans such as prevention and treatment of various types of diseases. Recently, scientists have become focused on the health-promoting effects of high quality food and there is now abundant evidence that supports the role of various food components in promoting human health.
Such health-promoting foods or compounds are generally classified into 2 major categories: functional foods and nutra-ceuticals. Functional foods are often the foods consumed as part of a usual diet, and that can also reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, hypertension, kidney malfunction, etc. A typical example of a functional food is tomato, which is rich in the antioxidant lycopene and helps to remove toxic compounds from our bodies.
Other typical examples of functional foods include soybeans, fish, oat meal, wheat, rice and tea. Apart from traditional foods, there are also functional foods that are produced through food processing such the antihypertensive sour milk that has been shown to reduce blood pressure in humans. Nutra-ceuticals are health-promoting food ingredients that have been isolated from food sources and are sold in a medicinal form. A good example is a group of compounds called isoflavones that are isolated from soybean seeds and packaged into pills.
Other examples of nutra-ceutical food ingredients include fish oil capsules, herb extracts, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate pills, lutein-containing multivitamin tablets, etc. Beyond their basic function of providing nourishment foods provide substantial health benefits especially in the prevention or treatment of acute and chronic human diseases.