Open access peer-reviewed chapter - ONLINE FIRST

Sources and Health Benefits of Functional Food Components

Written By

Saijuddin Shaikh

Submitted: January 20th, 2022 Reviewed: March 1st, 2022 Published: April 5th, 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.104091

Functional Food Edited by Naofumi Shiomi

From the Edited Volume

Functional Food [Working Title]

Dr. Naofumi Shiomi and Ph.D. Anna Savitskaya

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Functional foods are the foods claimed that have additional health benefits beyond their basic nutritional values, and functional food components are bioactive, potentially beneficial compounds that are found either naturally in foods or added to them as functional ingredients. Some important functional food components are carotenoids, isothiocyanates, soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, phenolic acids, fatty acids, plant stanols and sterols, flavonoids, polyols, soy protein, prebiotics and probiotics, phytoestrogens, vitamins, and minerals. Most of the functional food components occur mainly in plant foods (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables), however, few functional foods components, such as omega-3, -6, and -9 polyunsaturated fatty acids are also found in animal products (e.g. milk, fermented milk products, and cold-water fish). Evidence suggested that there is a relationship between functional food components and health benefits. Functional food components can be used for the treatment and prevention of different diseases. Biologically active functional food components can reduce the risk of certain non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, inflammation, and lowering of blood cholesterol. Thus, people should consume a wide variety of foods to assure the ingestion of functional food components in their body, such as fatty acids, fiber, carotenoids, flavonoids, prebiotics and probiotics, vitamins, and mineral.


  • functional food
  • components
  • nutritional
  • physiological

1. Introduction

1.1 What are functional foods?

Functional foods are such types of foods that are highly nutritious and have a potential health benefits besides their basic nutritional values. Functional foods contain either supplements or other additional ingredients designed to improve the health of the general population. Foods are being examined and improved which may reduce chronic disease risk and optimize health. Japanese has first developed the concept of functional foods in 1980. At that time, their health care costs were escalating and the Ministry of Health and Welfare initiated to approve some foods which were documented with their health benefits and used for improving the health of the aging population [1].

1.2 Functional food components

Functional food components are bioactive compounds used in the manufacture of functional foods. They are potentially beneficial compounds found either naturally in foods or added to them as functional ingredients. The functional food components are carotenoids, isothiocyanates, dietary fiber, phenolic acids, fatty acids, plant stanols and sterols, flavonoids, polyols, soy protein, prebiotics and probiotics, phytoestrogens, vitamins, and minerals. Research-based evidence suggested that there is a relationship between functional food components, health, and well-being [2]. Therefore, functional food components can be used in the treatment and prevention of diseases, as they have health-promoting roles at various stages of disease control. Phytochemicals are plant-derived, non-nutritive, and biologically active functional food components that function in the body to prevent certain non-communicable diseases [3]. About 900 phytochemicals are found in foods and 120 g of foods or vegetables may have around 100 different types of phytochemicals [4]. The earlier concept was that functional food components occur mainly in plant foods, such as whole grain, fruits, and vegetables. However, functional food components are also found in animal products; these are milk, fermented milk products, and cold-water fish. These animal source food components are probiotics, prebiotics, symbiotic, conjugated linolenic acid, long-chain omega-3, -6, and -9 polyunsaturated fatty acids, etc.

1.3 Production of functional foods

Functional foods can be made by different approaches, such as (1) eliminating harmful components from the food (e.g. allergic protein), (2) increasing the concentration of a component in the food by fortification with micronutrients or any other ingredient, (3) eliminating excessive component mainly a macronutrient like fats and producing a beneficial component such as chicory inulin, (4) increasing stability or bioavailability of a component to produce a functional effect or to reduce the disease risk, and (5) adding a new component in the foods which has the beneficial effect, e.g. antioxidant.

In this chapter, functional food ingredients, including their sources and physiological functions, are discussed.


2. Sources and health benefits of functional food components

2.1 Carotenoids

The carotenoids are the most widespread and important fat-soluble pigments in nature and they have varied health functions. Most carotenoids consumed foods are beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, gamma-carotene, lycopene, lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin.

2.1.1 Sources

Carotenoids are available in plants, fruits, flowers, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria. The other sources of carotenoids are non-photosynthetic bacteria, yeasts, and molds.

2.1.2 Function

Carotenoids are used as antioxidants in dietary supplements. They are also used as colors in foods and beverages and as pigments in poultry and fish farm, and as food ingredients. Carotenoids have an important role in human health. The main dietary source of vitamin A is beta-carotene. Protective effects of carotenoids have been identified against serious disorders, such as cancer [5], heart disease [6], and degenerative eye disease [7]. The role of carotenoids as antioxidants and as regulators of the immune response system is also recognized.

2.2 Dietary fibers

Dietary fibers are the portion of plant-derived foods. They cannot be fully fragmented by human digestive enzymes. Fibers are non-starch polysaccharides, such as cellulose, hemicellulose, galactooligosaccharides, polyfructose, gums, mucilages, pectins, and lignin. These are soluble or insoluble fibers that pass through the stomach and small intestine undigested, but they are fermented by bacteria in the colon when they reach the large intestine.

2.2.1 Sources

Beans, whole grains, brown rice, popcorn, nuts, baked potato with skin, berries, bran cereal, oatmeal, and vegetables are the sources of dietary fibers.

2.2.2 Function

Fibers are fermented and produced short-chain fatty acids in the colon that provide important health benefits. Some fibers are manufactured and added to food products to provide similar health benefits without adding calories called functional fibers. These are cellulose, polydextrose, maltodextrin, and inulin. There are several potential health benefits of the consumption of dietary and functional fibers. Fibers reduce the incidence of constipation [8], irritable bowel syndrome [9], lower cholesterol, and reduce the incidence of coronary and cardiovascular heart diseases [10], prevent obesity [11] and diabetes [12], avoid colon cancer [13], and increase survival in breast cancer [14]. However, there are some adverse effects of excessive intake of dietary fiber, such as intestinal obstruction (in susceptible individuals), dehydration (due to a fluid imbalance), increase in intestinal gas, resulting in distention and flatulence, and reduced absorption of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and calories from the gut [15].


3. Essential fatty acids

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be synthesized by the human body but the body requires them for good health and therefore, they must be obtained through diet. Essential fatty acids are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are called “good fats” and they increase the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and decrease the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Alpha linoleic acid and linolenic acid are the primary essential fatty acids in the human body.

3.1 Sources

Sources of essential fatty acids are mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, herring, oysters, soybeans, sardines, flax seeds, anchovies, caviar, walnuts, chia seeds, and canola oils.

3.2 Function

Essential fatty acids help in the absorption of important nutrients and expelling of harmful waste products that support the reproductive, cardiovascular, nervous systems, and immune. They are also important for proper growth, neural development, and maturation of sensory systems in children. Other important roles of EFAs are to increase the production of prostaglandins that regulate body functions, such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood clotting, conception, and fertility. EFAs also play an important role in immune function by regulating inflammation and encouraging the body to fight infection [16]. Essential fatty acids are beneficial for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis [17] and reduce tenderness in joints, swelling, and diminish morning stiffness. It has also been observed that EFAs are important elements for asthma [18], depression [19], bipolar disorder schizophrenia [20], hypertension [21], heart diseases [22], burns [23], photodermatitis, acne or psoriasis [24], cholesterol [25], obesity [26], insulin sensitivity [27], osteoporosis [28], attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [29], age-related macular degeneration [30], dry-eye conditions, such as Sjögren’s syndrome [31]. Consumption of sufficient amounts of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of colorectal [32], breast cancer [33], and prostate cancer [34].


4. Isothiocyanates

Isothiocyanates are compounds produced by hydrolysis of glucosinolates that are precursors of cruciferous vegetables. Some isothiocyanates are volatile and evaporated below the boiling point. Isothiocyanates hydrolyze at higher cooking temperatures and their bioavailability is affected by microwaving at high power [35].

4.1 Sources

Good sources of isothiocyanates are cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, watercress, Japanese radish, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale.

4.2 Function

Several studies revealed that isothiocyanates and their metabolites decrease the risk of developing different types of cancer, such as stomach, breast, liver, esophagus, lung, small intestine, and colon [36, 37]. Isothiocyanates effect Helicobacter pyloriand reduce the risk of developing gastric cancer. On the other hand, sulforaphane inhibits the growth of multiple strains of bacteria [38] and there is a role in eradication in some cases [39]. People who consume isothiocyanates-rich vegetables have a lower incidence or severity of cardiovascular disease [40].


5. Flavonoids

Flavonoids are pigments synthesized by plants and there are many different subclasses, each comprising many different compounds, such as isoflavones (biochanin A, daidzin, daidzein, formononetin, glycitein, genistein); flavononols (astilbin, genistin, taxifolin, engeletin); anthocyanidins (cyanidin, malvidin, delphinidin, apigenin, peonidin, pelargonidin, petunidin); chalcones (okanin, butein); flavonols (isorhamnetin, quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin); flavanols (positive-catechin, negative-epicatechin, positive-gallocatechin, negative-epigallocatechin, negative-epicatechin gallate); flavones (apigenin, luteolin, chrysin, rutin); flavanones (eriodictyol, isosakuranetin, hesperidin, naringin, naringenin, taxifolin) [41].

5.1 Sources

Sources of flavonoids are fresh capers, elderberry juice, dried parsley, sorrel, red onions, rocket lettuce, fresh cranberries, goji berries, cooked asparagus, blackcurrants, dried oregano, grapefruit, lemons, orange juice, limes, oranges, grapefruit juice, artichokes, green tea, black tea, dried cocoa, dark chocolate, blackberries, cooked broad beans, pecan nuts, red table wine, apples, peaches, dried parsley, aronia, green pepper, bilberries, chickpeas, black currants, American bilberries, red cabbage, red currants, raspberries, and strawberries.

5.2 Function

There are several health benefits of flavonoids, including antiallergic, antioxidant activities, antiviral [42], antitoxic, antifungal [43], antibacterial [44] and anti-inflammatory [45]. Recent researches identified the many defensive roles of flavonoids, these are eye diseases [46], heart diseases [47], hemorrhoids [48], diabetes [49], neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s [50], gout [51] and periodontal disease [52]. Flavonoids are also used for the prevention and treatment of different types of cancer, such as prostate [53], ovarian [54], pancreatic, colon, breast [55], leukemia, lung [56], esophageal [57], hepatocellular carcinoma [58], and renal cell carcinoma [59].


6. Phenolic acids

Phenolic acids contain a phenolic ring and a carboxyl functional group. Some examples of phenolic acids are protocatechuic acid, vanillic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, sinapinic acid, and syringic acid. Phenolic acids are absorbed through the walls of the intestine and serve beneficial roles, such as antioxidants and protect cellular damage by free-radical oxidation reactions.

6.1 Sources

Sources of phenolic acids are cereals, oilseeds, legumes, vegetables, fruits, beverages, and herbs. Besides these sources, they are also found in all food groups.

6.2 Function

Phenolic acids have several health benefits, such as intake of phenolic acids decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, type II diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders [60, 61, 62], through multiple putative mechanisms of actions, including antioxidation, glucoregulation, anti-inflammation, antiproliferation, and microbial modulation. Russo et al. [63] found a negative relationship between dietary intake phenolic acids (e.g. ferulic acid and caffeic acid) and prostate cancer and they showed that both phenolic acids are associated with reduced prostate cancer. Also, immunoregulation diseases, asthma, and allergic reactions are protected by caffeic acid which is phenolic acid. Caffeic acid has a positive role against colon cancer [64] and it has inhibitor properties of HIV-1 that act as a potential antiviral therapy [65]. It is also found that a higher intake of phenolic acids is significant lower mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to a lower intake of phenolic acids [66].


7. Plant stanols and sterols

Plant stanols and sterols are a group of substances made in the plant. The most important and ample of plant sterol is sitosterol. However, campesterol and stigmasterol are also significant quantitative of sterol. They reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine and help to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood without affecting high-density lipoprotein (HLD) cholesterol levels.

7.1 Sources

Sterols and stanols are found in the highest amount in foods, such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, cereals, and vegetable oils.

7.2 Function

Plant sterols work as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant [67], and antiatherosclerosis. Phytosterols have antifungal activity and protect against ulcers [68]. The intake of plant sterols can prevent different types of cancer, such as the esophagus, prostate [69], lung [70], breast [71], ovary [72], stomach, and endometrial [73]. LDL-cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Plant sterols or stanols prevent absorption of LDL cholesterol from the gut, as a result, serum levels of LDL are lower, and assumed that lowering LDL-cholesterol is expected to lower cardiovascular diseases.


8. Polyols

Polyol is an organic compound and low-calorie carbohydrate-based sweetener. It is a hydrogenated version of carbohydrates. Its taste and texture are like sugar with half the calories. Polyols are used as sugar-free and low-calorie ingredients in many foods. There are various types of polyols, such as erythritol, isomalt, polyglucitol, lactitol, polyglycitol, mannitol, sorbitol, maltitol, and xylitol.

8.1 Sources

Polyols are found in some fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms.

8.2 Function

Polyols are used in different industries for making foods, such as ice cream, chewing gums, frozen desserts, candies, and baked goods [74]. They are also used for frostings, canned fruits, beverages, yogurt, and tabletop sweeteners. Polyols have some important health benefits and they maintain good oral health [75]. They are also used for weight control and reduction of dietary glycemic load [74]. Polyols may play an important role in the maintenance of human digestive health as these are low digestible carbohydrates [76]. Sometimes overconsumption of polyol-containing foods may have laxative effects [74].


9. Soy protein

Soy protein is extracted from soybean and hence, it is a complete plant-based protein and it contains adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. Health benefits of soy protein depend on consumption per day. Per person need to consume 25 g of soy protein or more every day to get results.

9.1 Sources

Whole soybeans are the source of soy protein and dietary fiber. Some selected soy food products are soya sauce (2 g protein of 18 g soy sauce), cooked and fermented soy (5 g protein of 28 g cooked and fermented soy), soybean curd (6 g protein of 84 g soybean curd), and soy veggie burger (11 g protein of 70 g soy veggie burger).

9.2 Function

Soy protein has many potential health benefits. Beneficial effects of soy protein products on women are improvement of diet and cardiovascular status, prevention of certain types of cancer, health improvement following menopause, and obesity prevention [77]. Xiao et al. [78] have shown some chemopreventive activity of soy protein. The potential role of consumption of soy protein is reducing body weight and fat mass which reduces plasma cholesterol and triglycerides [79]. Soy protein may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and coronary heath disease.


10. Phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens (PEs) are the compounds found in plans and they are not generated within the endocrine system in the human body and are consumed by eating phytoestrogenic plants. They have roles in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and minerals in the human body and they act as estrogen hormone in the reproductive cycle in women [80]. There are three types of phytoestrogens, such as lignans (enterolactone or enterodiol), coumestans (coumestrol), and isoflavones (genistein, daidzein, glycitein).

10.1 Sources

The greater sources of phytoestrogens are soybeans, soy beverages, tofu, tempeh, linseed (flax), wheat, berries, sesame seeds, oats, barley, lentils, dried beans, rice, alfalfa, mung beans, apples, wheat germ, carrots, rice bran, and soy-linseed bread.

10.2 Function

There are several health benefits of phytoestrogens. They affect the cardiovascular system [80] and skeleton and reduce the incidence of osteoporosis [81] and menopausal symptoms [82]. Phytoestrogens have cell proliferation inhibiting factors that prevent cancer. They have positive effect on prostate cancer [83], breast cancer [84], thyroid cancer [85], colorectal cancer [86], skin cancer [87] and endometrial cancer [88]. Soy foods containing PEs improve control of blood glucose and insulin levels [89]. There are antibacterial and fungistatic activities in some phytoestrogens which play an antiviral role [90].

11. Probiotics

There are two types of bacteria in our body, such as good bacteria and bad bacteria. Probiotics are living bacteria that provide health benefits by improvement of the balance of the intestinal microflora [91] when ingested in an adequate amount. Some yeasts also work as probiotics. There are so many types of probiotics, but Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus (or lactic acid bacteria—LAB), Lactococcus, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus thermophilus,and Enterococcusare common probiotics. Of them, Saccharomyces boulardiiis a probiotic yeast and others are bacteria.

11.1 Sources

Some best probiotic foods are yogurt, traditional buttermilk, pickles, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, cheese, and kefir.

11.2 Function

Probiotic is used for the treatment of diarrhea [92], Lactobacillushas probiotic action on infectious diarrhea and gastroenteritis in infants and children, and probiotic is used for the treatment of constipation. Probiotics therapy may help for irritable bowel syndrome treatment and inflammatory bowel disease [93]. Probiotic therapy is used for control other diseases, such as hypertension [94], lactose intolerance [95], hepatic encephalopathy [96], immune system [97], cancer [94], vaginal infections [98], H. pylori[99], kidney stones [100], cholesterol [101], allergies, and eczema [102]. Probiotics may reduce necrotizing enterocolitis and mortality in low-birth-weight infants [103].

12. Prebiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers present in plants and help healthy bacteria to grow in the gut and make the human digestive system work better. Most of the prebiotics are oligosaccharides that stimulate selectively the growth of bifidobacteria. Some prebiotics are fructooligosaccharides, lactosucrose, inulins, lactilol, isomalto-oligosaccharides, lactulose, soy oligosaccharides, pyrodextrins, transgalacto-oligosaccharides, and xylo-oligosaccharides.

12.1 Sources

Main sources of prebiotics are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, such as apples, artichokes, asparagus, bananas, barley, berries, chicory, cocoa, dandelion greens, flaxseed, garlic, green vegetables, leeks, konjac root, legumes, oats, tomatoes, onions, soybeans, wheat, and yacon root. Also, some foods are fortified with prebiotics, for example, baby formula, bread, cereal, cookies, and yogurt.

12.2 Function

Prebiotics work as anticarcinogenic, antimicrobial, and antiosteoporotic activities. Prebiotics are also used for the treatment of constipation, hepatic encephalopathy, and inflammatory bowel disease. There is a beneficial role of prebiotics in diabetes mellitus. Prebiotics also have an important role in improving mineral absorption and balance and enhancing the colonic absorption of some minerals. Prebiotics also ferment foods faster in the intestine and prevent constipation. Prebiotics reduce sepsis and mortality in premature and low-birth-weight infants [104].

13. Synbiotics

Synbiotics are the combined products of both probiotics and prebiotics. The advantage of the combination of beneficial bacteria is the encouragement of beneficial bacterial growth. Synbiotics are produced by combinations of lactobacillusGG and inulins, bifidobacteriaand fructooligosaccharides (FOS), and bifidobacteria and lactobacilli with FOS or inulins.

13.1 Sources

As symbiotics are the combined products of prebiotics and probiotics, so the sources of symbiotics are the same as probiotics and prebiotics. However, this combination is produced commercially.

13.2 Function

Evidence suggested that symbiotics can reduce sepsis, lower respiratory tract infection, and mortality among low-birth-weight infants [105].

14. Vitamins

Vitamins are organic molecules and essential for the proper functioning of the human body. Vitamins are required in small amounts obtained from a correct diet. There are two types of vitamins such as fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K and they can be stored in the body. On the other hand, water-soluble vitamins are C and B-complex, such as vitamins B6, B12, niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), biotin (B7), thiamine (B1), pantothenic acid (B5), and folic acid (B9). They cannot be stored in the body because the excess ingested is eliminated through human fluids, such as urine and transpiration, and hence necessary to ingest a daily amount of these vitamins [106].

14.1 Vitamin A

There are different forms of vitamin A, such as retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, and all known as retinoids.

14.1.1 Sources

The best sources of vitamin A are beef liver, cod liver oil, spinach, sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, black-eyed peas, mango, sweet red pepper, cantaloupe, dried apricots, pumpkin pie, tomato juice, and herring.

14.1.2 Function

Vitamin A plays an important role in many processes in the body, including immune function, reproduction, healthy vision, proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, lungs, and other organs, skink health and growth development. Vitamin A also helps to prevent lung and breast cancer [107]. Vitamin A can be used for the treatment of leukemia [108], skin disorders, and retinitis pigmentosa [109].

14.2 Vitamin B-complex

Vitamin B-complex is a product that is composed of B vitamins, such as thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), vitamins B6, biotin (B7), folic acid (B9), and B12.

14.2.1 Sources

Adequate amount of vitamins B sources are milk, cheese, eggs, liver and kidney, meat (chicken and red meat), fish (tuna, mackerel, and salmon), shellfish (oysters and clams), and dark green vegetables (spinach and kale).

14.2.2 Function

Vitamin B-complex has several health benefits:

Thiamin/thiamine (B1) is used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease [110], congestive heart failure [111], and cancer [112].

Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is used to prevent cataracts [113] and migraine headaches [114].

Niacin (B3) is used to prevent insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus [115]. It has a significant role to treat high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease [116].

Pantothenic acid (B5) can help in wound healing [117] and play an important role to maintain cholesterol levels [118].

Vitamin B6 has a vital role to prevent cardiovascular disease [119], kidney stones, and immune and cognitive functions [120]. It is also used for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome [121]. Vitamin B6 can protect from side effects of oral contraceptives, nausea, and vomiting in pregnancy [122] and reduce depression.

Biotin (B7) is used for the treatment of diabetes [123] and in the prevention of some birth defects [124]. It plays a vital role in the treatment of cholesterol [125], brittle fingernails [126], seborrheic dermatitis [127], and hair loss.

Folic acid (B9) is used to prevent some pregnancy complications, such as fetal neural tube defects [128]. It may be used to prevent certain heart defects and limb malformations [129] and birth defects [130]. Folic acid is used to prevent colorectal and breast cancer [131], heart diseases [132], Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive impairment [133].

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the prevention of neural tube defects, cancer [134], cardiovascular disease [135], depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia [136].

14.3 Vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a very effective nutrient and the main sources of vitamin C are citrus fruit (oranges and orange juice), strawberries, peppers, broccoli, blackcurrants, brussels sprouts, and potatoes. It plays an important role against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease [137], prenatal health problems, eye disease, and skin wrinkling. Vitamin C works as an antioxidant and can prevent scurvy, lead toxicity, and cancer [138].

14.4 Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a combination of calciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). Vital sources of vitamin D are liver, egg yolks, red meat, fortified foods (e.g. fat spreads and breakfast cereals), and oily fish (sardines, salmon, herring, and mackerel). Several functions of vitamin D exist in the human body. Vitamin D promotes healthy bones and teeth, supports immune, brain and nervous health, and manages diabetes by regulating insulin levels. It has also a beneficial role in lung function and cardiovascular health and influences the expression of genes involved in cancer development.

14.5 Vitamin E

Vitamin E has several forms and the human body can use only alpha-tocopherol form. Good sources of vitamin E are plant-based oil (e.g. sunflower, soya, corn, and olive oil), nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. The potential health benefits are moisturizing skin, wound healing, preventing cancer [139], reducing skin itching and eczema, psoriasis, preventing and minimizing the appearance of scars, uses for treatment of wrinkles, preventing sunburn, promoting nail health and enhance immune response [140]. Vitamin E is also used for the treatment of diabetes and dementia [141].

14.6 Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a group of compounds and of them, the main are vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. The main sources of vitamin K1 are leafy greens vegetables and other vegetables (brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage). However, sources of vitamin K2 are meats, fish, liver, cheeses, and eggs. Vitamin K plays an important role to prevent osteoporosis [142], vascular calcification [143], and cardiovascular disease. Besides these, it has other health benefit roles, such as bone health, cognitive health, and heart health.

15. Minerals

Minerals are inorganic elements present in the soil and water and are important for the body to stay healthy. According to the human body demands, dietary minerals are two types, such as macro-minerals those are required in large amounts (e.g. calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and sulfur), and micro- or trace-minerals those are required very small amounts (e.g. chromium, copper, cobalt, iron, fluorine, manganese, iodine, molybdenum, zinc, and selenium) [144].

15.1 Calcium

Calcium is a nutrient that all living organisms need and it is the most common mineral in the human body.

15.1.1 Sources

The main sources of calcium are milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products, green leafy vegetables (curly kale and okra), soya drinks with added calcium, and bread made with fortified flowers.

15.1.2 Function

Calcium has an important role in the human body. It is essential for the development of growth and maintain bone and reduces osteoporosis, helps regulation of muscle contraction, and maintains blood pressure. Calcium also prevents colorectal cancer [145] and preeclampsia [146].

15.2 Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the most important macro-nutrients for the human body.

15.2.1 Sources

Main sources of magnesium are avocados, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, whole grains, some fatty fish, dark chocolate, bananas, and leafy greens.

15.2.2 Function

Magnesium plays an important role in bone health and cardiovascular health, prevents diabetes and migraine headaches [147], premenstrual syndrome, and anxiety.

15.3 Potassium

Potassium is an important and necessary nutrient for the human body.

15.3.1 Sources

Potassium-rich foods are bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit, dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins and dates, cooked spinach and broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peas, cucumbers, and seafood. Milk, meat, yogurt, and nuts are also good sources of potassium.

15.3.2 Function

An adequate amount of potassium intake may prevent high blood pressure [148] that may reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke [149]. People who eat potassium-containing fruits and vegetables may have higher bone mineral density and it also helps to preserve muscle mass. High potassium may help kidneys’ ability to reabsorb calcium and reduce kidney stones [150].

15.4 Chromium

Chromium is an essential trace element that the human body needs in very small quantities to properly maintain some health functions.

15.4.1 Sources

The good sources of chromium are grape juice, whole wheat flour, brewer’s yeast, orange juice, beef, tomato juice, apples, and green beans.

15.4.2 Function

Some important health benefits of chromium are it may be helpful for type II diabetic patients. It can decrease glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Chromium supplements can be used to build muscle or trigger weight loss. Some side effects including watery stool, vertigo, headaches, and hives are reported for taking chromium supplements.

15.5 Copper

Copper is required in small quantities but it is an essential nutrient for the body.

15.5.1 Sources

Main sources of copper are organ meats (liver and kidneys), oysters, spirulina, shiitake mushrooms, nuts and seeds, lobster, dark leafy greens, whole grains, dried fruits (prunes, cocoa, and black pepper), and dark chocolate.

15.5.2 Function

Copper helps to produce red blood cells, regulates heart rate and blood pressure, the absorption of iron, prevents inflammation of the prostate, in development and maintenance of bone, brain, and heart, and activates the immune system [151].

15.6 Iodine

Iodine is an essential trace element and is required for the human body.

15.6.1 Sources

The important sources of iodine are fish (cod and tuna), shrimp, and other seafood. Dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese), eggs, prunes, lima beans, and iodized salt.

15.6.2 Function

Iodine is essential for the synthesis of thyroid hormone that is required for metabolism. The deficiency of thyroid hormone is called hypothyroidism can lead to issues with fatigue, joint pain, and fertility problems. Iodine plays an important role in proper bone and brain development.

15.7 Iron

Iron deficiency is associated with several health impairments.

15.7.1 Sources

Good sources of iron are organ meats, red meat, turkey, shellfish, white beans, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, nuts, dark chocolate, dried fruits, soybean flour, lentils, tofu, sardines, spinach, broccoli, cooked oysters, and fortified breakfast cereals.

15.7.2 Function

Iron is helpful for the treatment of anemia; it may reduce fatigue and improves muscle endurance. It has an important role in strengthening the immunity system. Iron improves cognitive function [152] and reduces bruising.

15.8 Selenium

Selenium is an important macromineral and essential for the human body. Selenium deficiency is common in a certain part of the world as it can be affected by pH.

15.8.1 Sources

The sources of selenium are Brazil nuts, fish, ham, enriched foods, pork, beef, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, brown rice, sunflower seeds, baked beans, mushrooms, oatmeal, spinach, milk and yogurt, lentils, cashews, and bananas.

15.8.2 Function

Selenium has several health benefits, such as acts as a powerful antioxidant, may reduce the risk of certain cancers-lung [153], prostate [154], liver, colon [155], esophageal, and gastric [156]. It may protect against heart disease and prevents mental decline. Selenium is important for maintaining thyroid health, helping to boost the immune system, and reducing asthma symptoms.

15.9 Zinc

Zinc is a vital and second-most-abundant and essential mineral for the human body.

15.9.1 Sources

The best sources of zinc are meat, shellfish, legumes, hemp seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs, whole grains, some vegetables, and dark chocolate.

15.9.2 Function

Zinc is important for various functions in the body, such as helps to increase the immune system, uses in treating diarrhea, wound healing, works as an antioxidant and reduces chronic diseases, prevents age-related macular degeneration [157], improves sexual health, prevents osteoporosis, reduces neurological symptoms, protects from the common cold, boosts cognitive function, and increase learning and memory.

16. Conclusion

Functional food components are important compounds available in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and some animal products. They are also manufactured commercially. They have several health benefits for the human body. Many functional food components are antioxidants rich and help to neutralize free radicals, prevent cell damage, and reduce non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart diseases and maintain health properly. To optimize health benefits and bioavailability of functional food components in the human body are critical factors. To maintain the levels required in the human body need an adequate amount of these components. Recent information in this regard is not sufficient. Therefore, need to provide more information to consumers to guide them effectively so that they can choose diets that contain adequate levels of health-promoting functional food components.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

Notes/thanks/other declarations



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Written By

Saijuddin Shaikh

Submitted: January 20th, 2022 Reviewed: March 1st, 2022 Published: April 5th, 2022