“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, as the famous Greek physician Hippocrates once said. The idea of using food as medicine has been around for thousands of years.
For optimum health, a balanced diet that includes a lot of fruits and vegetables and the proper ratio of macronutrients is essential. But we don’t always receive enough of these essential nutrients. Oxidative stress, which can result from a lack of nutrients, can cause additional health problems.
With new findings and cutting-edge technologies, nutrition research is continuously evolving. Nutraceuticals are one such development that unites nutrition and medicine.
A nutraceutical is a product formulated with either isolated nutrients or herbs that provides both nutrition and medicinal benefits such as the ability to treat or prevent disease. It is available in tablet, powder, or another type of medical form, with the health-promoting qualities present in whole foods.
Nutraceuticals have a wide range of stated advantages, some of which include treating conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, colds, and sleep disturbances. In addition to enhancing health, nutraceuticals have also been utilized to extend life, slow down the ageing process, and enhance the performance of particular body systems.
Nutraceuticals are also known by the following terms:
- Designer foods
- Functional foods
- Medical foods
- Nutritional supplements
A nutraceutical is essentially anything that benefits the body physiologically or protects against chronic illness.
How Do Nutraceuticals Work?
The chemical components that make up food are known as nutrients. Proteins, carbs, and lipids are the primary sources of energy; however, for a healthy metabolism, we also need vitamins, water, electrolytes, and minerals.
All of the chemical processes that occur in the body during metabolism serve to transform the food we eat into energy, which is then utilized to create the substances that all of the body’s cells require.
Our body, including all of its organs and systems, will work properly only if all the nutrients are present in the proper concentration. This shows that your body is capable of speedy and effective healing or repair.
However, if you don’t get enough nutrients, your body takes longer to heal or you could have health complications. Nutraceuticals can offer additional nutrients that your body needs for an optimal metabolic response and proper functioning.
Types of Nutraceuticals
Based on their purpose, dietary source, and bioactive components, nutraceuticals are broadly categorized into 2 types: Functional foods and Dietary supplements.
Dietary supplements are products that have concentrated amounts of bioactive components from dietary sources. A variety of ingredients, including amino acids, vitamins, herbs, minerals, significant metabolites, and specific enzymes, may be present in these supplements.
Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms, like tablets, capsules, liquids, gummies, and energy bars.
Nutraceuticals, which fall under the category of dietary supplements, support health and ward off disease in addition to enhancing diet.
Any food or food ingredient that offers a health benefit in addition to basic nourishment is referred to as a functional food.
These foods include whole foods and fortified, enriched, or enhanced foods that, when routinely consumed as a part of a varied diet, can benefit health. Functional food is available as pasta, cereal, whole grains, yoghurt, snacks, and more and has a similar appearance to food.
Functional Food Options Include:
Traditional Functional Food: These are naturally occurring, nutrient-rich foods that provide health advantages in addition to basic nourishment, such as lycopene in tomatoes and omega-3 fatty acids in salmon.
Non-Traditional Functional Food: These are manufactured foods to which bioactive ingredients have been added to improve health and wellbeing. Examples include fortified nutraceuticals like calcium-added juice, iron-fortified cereal, and folic acid-added flour.
Benefits of Nutraceuticals
Nutraceuticals have countless benefits. They have the ability to treat a wide range of diseases and illnesses, from physical to mental health. Nutraceuticals have been used to:
- Prevent and Treat Chronic Disease
- Improve Eye Health
- Treat Inflammation
- Enhance Sports Medicine
- Increase life expectancy
- Improve Immune Function
- Improve Gut Health
- Support Reproductive Health
- Improve Mental Health
- Improve overall health
- Increase energy
- Improve and regulate sleep
- Regulate bodily functions
- Enhance skin care
- Reduce cravings
It is important to only take nutraceuticals in the recommended dosages because of their potent physiological effects. It is essential to discuss your symptoms and use of nutraceuticals with a healthcare provider.