“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”   – Hippocrates


By Prof. B. M. Devani*, Prof. B. L. Jani and Dr. M. N. Dabhi*


The term Nutraceuticals was derived from ‘Nutrition’ (a nourishing food or food component) and ‘Pharmaceuticals’ (a medical drug) and is defined as a “food, or parts of a food, that provide medical or health benefits including the prevention and treatment of disease”. International Food Information Council (IFIC) defines functional foods as foods or dietary components that may provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition. While according to the International Life Sciences Institute of North America (ILSI) functional foods are the foods that by virtue of physiologically active food components provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Nutraceuticals range from isolated nutrients, dietary supplements, and specific diets to genetically engineered “designer” food, herbal products, and processed foods. As nutraceuticals provide health benefits beyond basic nutrients, it can be considered as functional food that is fortified with added or concentrated ingredients to functional levels, which improves health or performance. Nutritionally active functional foods include enriched cereals, breads, sports drinks, bars, fortified snack foods, baby foods, prepared meals, beverages, and many more. Nutraceuticals are identified to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease and also to prevent or treat hypertension, high cholesterol, excessive weight, osteoporosis, diabetes, arthritis, digestive upsets and constipation. One can avail the nutraceuticals in concentrated forms as pills, capsules, powders and tinctures either as a single substance or as combination preparations. Many food labels claim the food as nutritionally functional food as the food contains certain nutrient that reduces the risk of a disease or health-related condition (antioxidant, vitamins to reduce the risk of certain form of cancer), intends to affect the normal structure or function in human (such as calcium to strengthen the bones and reduces the risk of osteoporosis).

Benefits of Nutraceuticals

Nutraceuticals are beneficial in terms of increasing the health value of our diet, helping to avoid particular medical conditions. It has a psychological benefit and perceived to be more “natural” than traditional medicine and less likely to produce unpleasant side effects and easily and economically available.

Nutraceuticals can be categorized into dietary supplements, functional food or fortified nutraceutical, pharmaceuticals or recombinant nutraceuticals and medicinal foods.

Dietary Supplements

It includes nutrients such as vita-mins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and antioxidants. Extracts and concentrates from herbal or botanical products, polyphenols, isoflavonoids, anthocyanins, carotenoids, phytost-erols, polysaccharides from plant materials also serve as nutraceuticals. Prebiotocs, Probiotics (Lactobacillus bacteria and bifidobacteria) and nutraceutical enzymes and dietary fibers (cellulose, hemicellulose, gum pectin) also serve as nutraceuticals that exchange benefits upon the host wellbeing and health.

Functional Food/ Fortified Nutraceutical: It is considered as food fortified with added nutrients or ingredients which has medicinal value such as milk enriched with vitamin D, Cereal flour added with fiber and folic acid. Several naturally derived food substances have been studied in cancer therapies. Vitamin E, selenium, vitamin D, green tea, soy, and lycopene are examples of nutraceuticals widely studied in human health (Brower V, 1998).


Table 1: Food with high content of nutraceutical substance


Nutraceutical substance

Food with higher content

Mechanism of action

Allyl sulfur compounds

Onions, garlic

Isoflavones (e.g., genestein, daidzein)

Soybeans and other legumes, apios


Onion, red grapes, citrus fruit, broccoli, Italian yellow squash



Pepper fruit



Fish oils



Tomatoes and tomato products

Antioxidant Activity


Oat bran

Positive Influence on Blood Lipid Profile


Citrus fruit, carrots, squash, pumpkin

Antioxidant Activity







Ellagic acid

Grapes, strawberries, raspberries, walnuts


Monounsaturated fatty acids

Tree nuts, olive oil

Positive Influence on Blood Lipid Profile


Tea, cocoa, apples, grapes

Antioxidant Activity


Flax, rye


Soy protein


Osteogenetic or Bone Protective



Pharmaceauticals or recombinant nutraceuticals: It includes medically valuable compounds from modified agricultural crops, developed by biotechnological methods serving the benefits of farm food and pharmaceuticals.

Medicinal Food: These foods are specially designed to be used under the specific supervision of a physician to fight with a specific disease or conditions for distinctive nutritional requirements, and are established by the medical evaluation.

The list of nutraceutical foods is in the hundreds in our diet and some of the more recognizable substances include isoflavones, tocotrienols, allyl sulfur compounds, fiber, and carotenoids. Depending upon the intended health benefits to be availed, the type of nutraceutical may vary. For example, cardiologists may be most interested in those nutraceutical substances that are associated with reducing the risk factors of heart disease such as n-3 fatty acids, phytosterols, quercetin, and grape flavonoids. On the other hand, food scientists developing nutraceuticals will focus on the physiological properties, stability, sensory properties and cost-efficiency. The foods with a higher content of nutraceutical substances are enlisted in Table 1. Nutraceuticals are also sub-grouped according to chemical nature in Isoprenoid derivatives/Terpenoids (Limonene from citrus peel, kahweol and cafestol from coffee beans, Phenolic substances (antioxidants in the leaf of blueberry, bran portion of cereals and legumes), Fatty acids and structural lipids (ω-3 PUFA from marine algae, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) from beef and dairy products), Carbohydrates and derivatives (ascorbic acid), Amino acid-based substances (arginine, ornithine, taurine, and aspartic acid), Microbes/Probiotics (bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, yeast such as Saccharomyces boulardii), Minerals (Calcium, Potassium).


Nature has gifted us with a variety of foods with different nutrients according to the requirements and functions of our body. Besides the only nutritional requirements, the foods serve as nutraceuticals depending upon the functionalities and provide health benefits and disease-preventing capabilities. Nutritionally functional foods can substantially provide health benefits in the prevention or for the treatment of chronic diseases and thereby uphold the wellbeing of humanity. Nutraceuticals may offer an advantage over synthetic drugs and thus helping in prevention and therapeutic in several diseases. By espousing nutraceuticals – nutritionally functional foods and beverages in daily routine can be the way to remain happy and healthy and one can be away from entering the synthetic drug into the body.


* Prof. B. M. Devani, Assistant Professor, Department of Processing and Food Engineering, College of Agricultural Engineering and Technology, Junagadh Agricultural University, Junagadh

* Dr M N Dabhi, Professor and Head, Prof B L Jani, Assistant Professor, Department of Processing and Food Engineering College of Agricultural Engineering and Technology Junagadh Agricultural University, Junagadh