- Scientists can now cross-breed different
varieties of broccoli to improve its ability to fight cancer. 'Smart' foods
promise more than good nutrition. Foods are being specially engineered
to fight disease: eggs that prevent heart disease, broccoli that fights
cancer, and margarine that lowers cholesterol - these are the designer
foods of the future. They're called functional or 'smart' foods, and they're
specially created to provide health benefits beyond just good nutrition.
- "THESE ARE FOODS that can actually
ward off the kinds of diseases and ailments that we all develop as we grow
older," says Gene Grabowski of the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
"We're looking at a market in the next five to 10 years and it's going
to be about 34 billion dollars."
- For the food giants, the race is already
on. Kellogg Corp. just launched a new line of cereals and snacks, all made
from a cholesterol-lowering fiber called psyllium. Johnson & Johnson
has produced a margarine made with a substance called Benecol, which lowers
cholesterol. It is already sold in Europe. And at Monsanto, food scientists
are hoping that oil made from seaweed will give cookies and cakes the healthy
nutrients of fish, without the bad taste.
- Functional or 'smart' foods provide enhanced
health benefits beyond basic nutrition and have taken the food industry
by storm. Like the raw vitamins and supplements they contain, functional
foods do not require approval from the FDA. Imagine: Better broccoli, Better
butter, Cancer-reducing ketchup, Colon-friendly cookies, Fortified juice,
Happy soup, Intelligent chocolate, Orange drink, Seaweed snacks Sensual
sodas, Super cereal
- Of course, everyone knows some fruits
and vegetables help fight disease. But now, as scientists discover the
reasons why, their goal is to engineer 'super foods' with even more health
benefits than ever before. "We are trying to build a better broccoli,
one that will offer prevention of cancer or at least decrease your risk
of cancer." - Elizabeth Jeffrey, University of Illinois For example,
researchers at the University of Illinois working with over 50 varieties
of broccoli have found that some contain 30 times more cancer-fighting
compounds than others. So they are breeding new species, testing them on
mice and then taste-testing them on people.
- "We are trying to build a better
broccoli, one that will offer prevention of cancer or at least decrease
your risk of cancer," says Elizabeth Jeffrey of the University of
Illinois, a member of the research team trying to develop the improved
broccoli species. "I think it's going to become a part of everyday
life, that you feed your family vegetables that have added nutritional
power," she adds.
- But the super food concept is not restricted
to engineering better vegetables. Imagine, for instance, the possibility
of fresh eggs that can prevent heart disease. At Pilgrim's Pride, chickens
are fed a special feed so that their eggs come out enhanced with healthy
fatty acids and vitamin E. "The product eats, tastes and cooks like
a regular egg," says Dan Emery, of Pilgrim's Pride.
- In short, the idea is to give people
the same old taste with even better nutrition. It's the No.1 trend in the
food business today, and it has real promise to help Americans live healthier,
and live better.