Food Science & Nutrition

Share this article:

Food Science & Nutrition

  • Join our comunity:

Nutraceuticals and Functional Components in Nutrition and Food Products

By: , Posted on: April 5, 2017

Foods contain major and minor components as well as bioactive compounds (e.g. antioxidants, peptides, carbohydrates, lipids, glucosinolates) that are of primary importance for human nutrition. Consequently, their importance has initiated a surge of research and product development in the food industry. In order to adapt to these consumer drivers and enhance the physiological functionality of inherent nutrients, the food industry is developing the so-called “functional foods”.

The latest term was born in Japan. Indeed, Japanese were the first to observe that food could have a role beyond gastronomic pleasure and nutrient supply to the human organism. Japan is the first country to legislate these products in the FOSHU (Foods of Specified Health Use) legislation, whereas it has the highest number of functional foods on the market. Europe and the American countries incorporated later this concept.

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) classified in 2004 all food as functional at some physiological level, pointing out that “the term functional food should not be used to imply that there are good and bad foods“. In addition, it denotes that “all food can be incorporated into a healthful eating plan ─ the key being moderation and variety“. Whole foods like fruits and vegetables represent the simplest example of functional foods since they are rich in bioactive compounds that protect body’s cells against oxidative damage and reduce the risk of developing certain cancers.

It is important to state that functional food must be a food (not a drug), while beneficial effects should be obtained by consuming it in normal amounts within the regular diet. The lack of consensus between Europe and the USA for concrete definitions is leading to different terms, which increases the confusion among professionals and consumers. In general, USA prefers the term “nutraceutical”. The latter term refers to any substance, food or part of a food that provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of diseases. However, contrarily to functional foods, nutraceuticals are commodities derived from foods used in the medicinal form of pills, capsules, potions and liquids and again render demonstrated physiological benefits. Nutraceuticals has now been grouped together with herbal and other natural health products.

The average consumer prefers natural products instead of the chemical ones since people want to take food with the desired health benefits rather than take medicine separately. The increasing demand on functional foods can be explained by the increasing cost of healthcare, the steady increase in life expectancy and the desire of older people for improved quality of their later years. In many cases, it is believed that certain unprocessed or minimally processed foods might have superior health benefits compared to their processed counterparts. However, this assumption may not hold when considering particular phytochemicals, e.g. lycopene in tomato.

Food components with functional properties are used as additives in foodstuff due to their ability to provide both advanced technological properties and health claims to the final product. Epidemiological studies have shown that health benefits (e.g. reduced risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, diabetes, obesity and cancer) may be attributed to the consumption of both macro- and micro-nutrients. For instance, macromolecules like soluble dietary fibre is known for its ability to lower blood lipid level and at the same time showing advanced gelling properties. Therefore, it can be used to replace fat in foods, stabilize emulsions and improve products’ shelf-life.

Over the last years, new products based on fruit or vegetable and milk have been appeared in the Europe and North American markets. These products have wider consumer acceptance and higher nutritional value, largely due to their higher bioactive compound content and their antioxidant capacity. However, the design and development of functional foods should not only be carried out based on the desired nutritional function.

The appearance and sensory properties of foods are very important attributes to the consumer, thus the colour, texture, taste and mouth feel should be taken into account as well. From a manufacturing point of view, the most popular functional food product format is beverages since they are relatively easy to formulate. In the case of soft solid foods, the structure derived quality aspects (e.g. stability, texture and taste) are of high importance for consumer acceptance of foods as well as for the bioavailability of micronutrients. Food manufacturers face a series of technical challenges during fortification of foods with bioactive compounds. For instance, processes should be selected carefully to maintain both functionality of bioactive compounds as well as the quality and sensory attributes of the food.

nutraceutical and functional food components

Nutraceutical and Functional Food Components: Effects of Innovative Processing Techniques presents the latest information on the chemistry, biochemistry, toxicology, health effects, and nutrition characteristics of food components and the recent trends and practices that the food industry (e.g. the implementation of non-thermal technologies, nanoencapsulation, new extraction techniques, and new sources, like by-products, etc.) has adopted. This book fills the gap in knowledge by denoting the impact of recent food industry advances in different parameters of food components (e.g. nutritional value, physical and chemical properties, bioavailability and bioaccessibility characteristics) and final products (e.g. applications, shelf-life, sensory characteristics).

Key Features

  • Provides a holistic view of the interactions between novel processing techniques and food components
  • Explains how innovative techniques, such as non-thermal, nano-encapsulation, waste recovery, and novel extraction and processing methods impact the nutritional value of ingredients commonly used in functional food and nutraceutical products
  • Covers food applications, shelf-life, and sensory characteristics

Read more articles from Charis Galanakis, Coordinator of Food Waste Recovery Group


Charis M. Galanakis is an interdisciplinary scientist with a fast-expanding work that balances between food and environment, industry, and academia. His research targets mainly the separation and recovery of functional macro- and micromolecules from different food by-products, as well as their implementation as additives in food and other products. He is the research and innovation director of Galanakis Laboratories (Chania, Greece) and the coordinator of Food Waste Recovery Group of ISEKI Food Association (Vienna, Austria).

He serves as an editorial board member and subject editor of Food and Bioproducts Processing and Food Research International, and he has edited 6 books from Academic Press: Food Waste Recovery: Processing Technologies and Industrial Techniques (2015), Innovation Strategies in the Food Industry: Tools for implementation (2016) and Nutraceutical and Functional Food Components: Effects of Innovative Processing Techniques (2017), Olive Mill Waste: Recent advances for the Sustainable Management (2017), Handbook of Grape Processing By-Products: Sustainable Solutions (2017) and Handbook of Coffee Processing By-Products: Sustainable Applications (2017).

See his full portfolio of books here.

Follow Dr. Galanakis via Twitter – @CharisGalanakisLinkedIn or ResearchGate.

Join the Food Waste Recovery Group on LinkedIn or the Food Waste Recovery Page on Facebook.

Charis’ latest books are available to order on the Elsevier Store. Use discount code STC317 at checkout and save up to 30% on your very own copy!

Food Science & Nutrition

The field of food science is highly interdisciplinary, spanning areas of chemistry, engineering, biology, and many more. Researchers in these areas achieve fundamental advances in our understanding of agriculture, nutrition, and food-borne illness, and develop new technologies, like food processing methods and packaging material. Against a backdrop of global issues of food supply and regulation, this important work is supported by Elsevier’s catalog of books, eBooks, and journals in food science, considered essential resources for students, instructors, and health professionals worldwide. Learn more about our Food Science and Nutrition books here.