Omega-3-infused cranberries, green tea-augmented coffee, probiotic-boosted candy: Welcome to the age of functional foods. Not that enhancing foods with nutrients is new. As far back as the 1920s, manufacturers were adding iodine to salt to counter goiter. Later, our government mandated adding vitamin D to milk to stave off rickets and folic acid to whole grains to prevent birth defects. Today we buy iron-fortified cereal and calcium-enriched orange juice. Although fortifying foods was once more malady specific, recent developments in food engineering, a plethora of new ingredients, and a growing awareness of nutrition's role in health have given fresh reason to explore the “functional” category, explains Lisa Marshall in “What's Fortifying Your Food?” (page 20). In fact, the Nutrition Business Journal recently estimated that functional foods generated 76 percent of total sales in the $10 billion healthy kids' market in 2008.
In particular, nutritionally pumped foods may help if you're on a restricted diet, as dictated by conditions such as food allergies or diabetes — or if your body simply has a genetic disposition toward certain nutrients. Nutrigenomics, an emerging field of nutrition science, can help you find out (see “Food and Your Genes,” page 46). Developed by Jeffrey Bland, PhD, CNS, this technique combines information about your DNA with insight on how your body processes the foods you eat — for instance, whether it utilizes folic acid or overresponds to cholesterol — to pinpoint whether you might benefit from supplements, specific fortified foods, or other dietary adjustments.
Of course, while functional foods have their place, experts agree that for most of us the best way to obtain vitamins and minerals is to eat whole foods — natural and organic, unprocessed foods. And you have no excuse not to in July, when the bounty is plentiful! Whether you're a raw foodie or not, you'll be wowed by raw-food guru Ani Phyo's recipes in “Classy Raw Cuisine,” page 26. These meals taste so wonderfully fresh and satisfying that I suggest not telling your dinner guests the meal is raw, and see if they notice.