1. Food
Fiona Haynes

Functional-Food Trends and Fats

By April 19, 2006

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Consumers are becoming ever-more health conscious when it comes to grocery shopping, according to April 2006 issue of Food Technology, which features the Top 10 Functional Food Trends. We scan food labels for healthy foods that will ward off all manner of diseases and ailments. Foods with antioxidants or omega-3 fatty acids, for example, are demonstrating great pulling power, and so are calorie-controlled snack products—those handy little 100-calorie packs of crackers we’ve all become familiar with. Low-glycemic-index products, or foods that won’t cause sugar levels to spike, are expected to do well in 2006, despite some doubts over the usefulness of the glycemic index.

Halfway down the list of the top 10 functional-food trends is healthy fats. Fat has become a complex issue. Although nearly three-quarters of us used low-fat products in 2005, and 69 percent of us fat-free foods, these numbers were down compared with 2001, when 82 percent of us used low-fat foods and 76 percent used fat-free foods.

Foods marketed as “low in saturated fat” or containing “no trans fatty acids” now have far greater influence on consumers than foods that are simply labeled “low fat”. The flip side to avoiding the so-called bad fats is an increasing trend towards eating the good fats. Olive oil is hot, along with any food containing omega-3 fatty acids, which includes some fortified breads, eggs and pasta.

Overall, these kinds of trends are encouraging. It shows willingness on our part to combat the obesity epidemic—where two-thirds of the U.S. population is either overweight or obese—and also to take greater responsibility for chronic-disease prevention.

We desperately want to eat our way to good health, though without too much sacrifice. We like healthy food, so long as it tastes good and is convenient to prepare. That’s where the food industry must play its part to keep consumers on a healthy path—however “healthy” is defined from year to year.

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Photo © 2006 Fiona Haynes, licensed to About, Inc.

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