How do you know if the health claims made on a functional-food package are legit? In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must approve health claims before they appear on food labels. Of course, some marketing pros manage to imply health benefits the FDA hasn't approved.

Following are some of the foods and ingredients the FDA says have health benefits, as well as foods for which strong evidence supports specific health claims, but the FDA has not yet evaluated. Remember: A food for which the FDA hasn't approved any health claims can still be beneficial. For more details, visit the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition's "Food Labeling Guide" at www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/flg-6c.html.

Strong Evidence

FDA-approved with very strong scientific evidence

*Calcium: Helps prevent osteoporosis.
*Fiber-containing grain products; fruits and vegetables; selenium: Help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
*Folic acid: Lowers risk of neural-tube defects, such as spina bifida.
*Soluble fiber, found in whole oats and psyllium-seed husks; soy protein; omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish; fruits and vegetables; and plant stanol and sterol esters: Help reduce heart-disease risk.

Moderate Evidence

Not FDA-approved, but backed with moderate scientific evidence

*Cranberry juice: Helps reduce risk of urinary tract infection.
*Garlic: Helps lower cholesterol.

—T.R.