[Answered]What are functional foods? How functional foods can help in resolving India’s malnutrition and farmer’s issues?

Demand of the question

Introduction. What are functional foods?

Body. How functional foods can help in resolving India’s malnutrition and farmer’s issues?

Conclusion. Way forward.

 Functional foods are fortified, enriched or enhanced foods that provide health benefits greater than that of essential nutrients (e.g., vitamins and minerals), when they are consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis.They promote optimal health and help reduce the risk of disease. Functional foods may include Conventional foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts, and modified foods such as yogurt, cereals and orange juice.

How functional foods can help in resolving India’s malnutrition and farmer’s issues?

  1. Malnutrition Issue: Hunger, malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies continue to threaten millions of people in India. In India 44% of children under the age of 5 are underweight. 72% of infants and 52% of married women have anaemia. Malnutrition is a direct consequence of an insufficient and unbalanced diet. Malnutrition also lead to diet related chronic diseases (type 2-diabetes, hypertensive diseases, and cardiovascular diseases).
  • High nutritional value: The functional foods have a high nutritional value that can be helpful to prevent malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and diet related chronic diseases.
  • Better absorption: These foods with functional properties, rich in fibres, antioxidants, polyphenols, β-carotene, enhancers of micronutrient absorption, are of great interest for a good health and wellbeing of Indian population.
  • Well-Being: Functional foods and drinks are products that have been enriched with added nutrients or other substances that are considered to have a positive influence on health. Examples include probiotic yogurts, cholesterol-lowering foods with added nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Prevent diseases: For example, whole grains contain dietary fiber, B vitamins, including folate, niacin, thiamine and riboflavin, as well as trace minerals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc. Several epidemiological studies have shown that a high intake of whole grains is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, obesity, and all-cause mortality.
  1. Farmer’s Issue: Farmer’s in India either live in debt or merely sustaining on low incomes especially small farmers. In 2016, NSSO published a report on annual income of Indian farmers. According to the report, an average agricultural household earned Rs 6,426 per month. Functional foods hold promise to raise farmers’ income.
  • Income: A better knowledge and development of the functional properties of these foods can be a source of innovation for Indian agricultural products and of more income for farmers.
  • Food security: Processing and marketing of these products for a sustainable food and nutrition security, would prevent against dramatic effects of a food crisis.

Way forward:

  1. Food market linkages: It is important to strengthen linkages between agriculture, nutrition and food processing in order to create an added value to Indian agricultural food products to overcome rural poverty and to prevent different forms of malnutrition.
  2. Awareness: The government must create awareness on functional foods by mainstreaming nutrition education. Food businesses should be fine-tuned into becoming value-added nutrition businesses.
  3. Technology: Technology should be made available and FPOs that have the potential for functional food production must be identified and trained right from their formation to capture the billion-dollar business and to enrich the country both economically and nutritionally.

The functional food section is likely to grow at a higher rate. This is due to the increasing visibility of such products in modern retail formats and promotional activities. Functional foods are full of nutrition and disease-preventing qualities, and contain physiologically active components from plant or animal sources. Thus functional foods should become part of an effective strategy to maximize health and reduce disease risk.

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