World Health Day is celebrated every year on April 7th to raise awareness about global health issues and promote healthy living. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has chosen the theme "Building a fairer, healthier world" for World Health Day 2023. In line with this theme, one of the key components of achieving equitable health outcomes is through the use of functional nutrition. The concept of using food as medicine has been gaining popularity in recent years, as more people are realizing the impact of diet on overall health and wellness.
Functional nutrition is a science-based approach that focuses on the therapeutic use of food and nutrients to prevent and treat chronic diseases. This year's World Health Day provides an opportunity to explore the importance of functional nutrition and how it can help us achieve a healthier and fairer world.
According to functional Nutritionist Mugdha Pradhan, "diet is the foundation of a person’s health. We are made up of the food we eat. Our bodies regularly eliminate old cells, which are replaced by new ones through the food we consume. Proteins and other important nutrients are necessary for bodily functions including energy production and brain neurotransmitters that manage mood and mental function."
"In today's world, we consume many harmful substances through food in addition to getting essential nutrients, such as inflammatory foods and toxins. Eliminating these toxins and cleaning up our diet benefits our health immensely as well.All of this highlights the importance of food in eliminating and preventing disease and maintaining good health," Pradhan said.
Dr. Vivek Srivastava, Senior Vice President- innovation, Business Strategy & Scientific Affairs, Zeon Lifesciences believes that health is rarely ever black-and-white - it’s about finding flexibility and the right balance to support and nourish your body from all angles. Food is one of our most powerful tools in the prevention and management of disease. “We also live in a culture where different diets and products are being marketed to us every day, along with conflicting nutrition messages that make deciding what to eat stressful and confusing. I truly believe that by combining evidence-based, medical nutrition therapy with integrative health strategies and mindfulness, one can achieve optimal health, balance, and joy in life,” he added.
While, Aman Puri, Founder, Steadfast Nutrition, India's leading sports nutrition brand suggests that functional nutrition is an emerging approach to healthcare focussing on food as medicine. It is a holistic approach that emphasises nutrition plans tailored to each individual’s unique needs, lifestyle, and medical history.
Functional foods offer consumers additional physiological benefits. Food is essential to our daily lives, providing our bodies with the nutrients and energy we need to function. However, certain foods also have medicinal properties, and can be used to prevent various illnesses and health conditions. Here are some examples:
1. Turmeric: This spice contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is commonly used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to treat several conditions, including arthritis and digestive problems.
2. Garlic: Garlic contains the compound allicin, which has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It helps boost immune health and prevent and treat infections.
3. Ginger: Ginger contains gingerol- a compound with anti-inflammatory properties. It helps treat nausea, vomiting, and other digestive problems.
4. Salmon: Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. They are commonly used to treat and help prevent heart disease and depression.
Mugdha Pradhan concurred by saying Functional Nutrition uses advanced medical testing to uncover the root causes of hard-to-treat chronic health conditions- to reverse them permanently through holistic nutrition and lifestyle therapies.
“The treatment is drug-free and primarily focuses on using food as medicine. But functional nutrition is a fully holistic approach and apart from nutrition, also utilizes everything from lifestyle modifications to plant medicines and detox protocols to heal people and transform their health. A functional nutritionist also works on the psychological condition of the client and the practice considers health as an amalgamation of all three-physical, mental, and spiritual health, ” she mentioned.