Functional Foods for Aging Adults

As healthcare costs continue to rise, aging consumers are buying functional foods to stay healthy longer–no one wants to spend their retirement savings on medical bills.

Functional Foods for Aging Adults

What Are Functional Foods?

Functional foods are foods that have health benefits beyond their nutritional value. They may be fortified with vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients, or they may be naturally beneficial in multiple ways.

One example of a functional food is yogurt, which is a source of protein, calcium, and vitamins but can help improve digestion because it also contains probiotics.

Another example is salmon which is a good protein source, but also rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are protective against heart disease and stroke.

History of Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals

Functional Food

The term “functional foods” was first coined in Japan in the 1980s and is defined as “foods that have been processed or formulated to enhance one or more of their functional properties such as physiological effects and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease.”

In more recent history, the concept of functional foods began to gain traction in the early 1900s, when scientists started to better understand the role that diet plays in overall health. This led to the development of fortified foods, which are foods that have been enhanced with nutrients or other substances that offer additional health benefits.


Finally, we have nutraceuticals which overlap categories between food and drugs. They are conventional or processed foods that have or added a useful food component which has a medicinal or health benefit to include prevention, management and/or treatment of a disease.

One example of a nutraceutical is Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP). Pectin is common in fruits, especially oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and apples. Its common use is as a bulking agent to relieve constipation; however, citrus pectin is best at binding toxic waste in the stool and removing it from the body. Once scientists discovered this, they modified it to have smaller molecules and now MCP has anti-colon cancer benefits.

Another notable example of a nutraceutical is vitamin D-fortified milk, which was first introduced in the 1930s to prevent rickets. Since then, many other fortified foods have been developed, including breakfast cereals, orange juice, and yogurt.

Functional Foods List

This table is a list of diseases common to aging adults. It is not inclusive but is meant to give you a general idea of possible diet changes to discuss with your health care professional. Authoritative are links included for further research.

ConditionFunctional Food
ArthritisChaga tea, green tea, tuna, flax seeds, broccoli, bone broth.

Exploration of functional food consumption in older adults in relation to food matrices, bioactive ingredients, and health
DiabetesBerries, lentils, sweet potato, almonds, pumpkin seeds.

The 10 Best Foods to Control Diabetes and Lower Blood Sugar
Hearing LossFish, legumes, bananas, broccoli, dark chocolate, garlic, whole grains.

7 Foods for Better Hearing
EyesightFish, legumes, bananas, broccoli, dark chocolate, garlic, whole grains.

Nutrients for the Aging Eye
Cardiovascular DiseaseFruits and vegetables, whole grains, soy, protein, fish.

Role of Functional Food in Treating and Preventing Cardiovascular Diseases
HypertensionCitrus fruits, salmon, Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, herbs and spices.

The 17 Best Foods for High Blood Pressure
DepressionOysters and mussels, organ meats, leafy greens, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale.

Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression.

Best Functional Foods

Most experts agree that unprocessed functional foods are best. There are a wide range of foods that have nutritional as well as therapeutic value–vegetables, berries, herbs and spices. You don’t need to become a vegetarian either as fish such as salmon or organ meats have value as well.

If you do decide to branch out into nutraceuticals, remember that the government does not regulate the term functional food, so do your research. Make sure there is solid proof of any health claims that are made in regard to specific products.

If you want to take a deep dive into the world of functional nutrition, consider enrolling in the course taught my mindbodygreen. The faculty consists of 20 doctors and health professionals, and the course comes with lifetime access to videos and study guides. Click here to check out the curriculum.

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    • laura
    • November 27, 2022

    This is great information for someone that has an elderly parent, but we can all could learn from these tips of how to save money on food and other things that we need. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    1. Reply

      Yes, the elderly can benefit a lot from functional foods. Thanks for commenting!

    • Renee
    • November 27, 2022

    Food can be medicine so medicine should be your food. We need to get back to a non processed diet as our ancestors used.

    1. Reply

      This is quite true!

  1. Reply

    This is a very helpful post listing all the functional foods . I was not aware of their health benefits so learnt a lot from this list

    1. Reply

      I’m glad you learned something new. Thanks for commenting!

    • Whitney Stewart
    • November 28, 2022

    This is so interesting! People forget that the worlds first medication were food! Natural remedies are also great for minor illnesses too! I’ll definitely keep this for later reference!

    1. Reply

      Yes, there was a time when all remedies were natural. Thanks for commenting!

    • Rosey
    • November 28, 2022

    I’m happy to see the foods that support good eye health. That’s what is diminishing for me.

    1. Reply

      Sorry to hear that. I’ll have to write an article on eye health.

    • Richelle Milar
    • November 28, 2022

    This is a really great and very informative post! Im gonna share this with my mom and auntie.

    • rain
    • November 28, 2022

    This is an important list. We definitely have to take care of ourselves as we get older. I love that the younger generation is taking the time to actually be healthy now,

    • Bryan
    • November 28, 2022

    Lucky for me, I don’t have any of the conditions above. But I do eat yogurt almost daily and I try to eat a balanced diet that includes many of the functional foods you mention.

  2. Reply

    This was very interesting. I was not familiar with functional foods but at 51, I believe they are something I should learn more about.

  3. Reply

    I’m bookmarking this for later to share with my dad.

    • Rosey
    • November 29, 2022

    It sounds like something worth looking into. Thank you for the tip to do due diligence though before delving in.

  4. Reply

    I have not hear of functional foods. But this is certainly worth learning more about as we age.

  5. Reply

    Your post is so much interesting to me. It’s the first time that I hear about functional foods. I’m working on food retail and this brings a great knowledge to me.

  6. Reply

    It is good to keep this in mind especially as we age. So important to get what we need from whole food sources.

    1. Reply

      Very true. It’s possible to stay healthy your entire life.

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