Foods contain major and minor components as well as bioactive compounds that are of primary importance for human nutrition. The importance of these compounds accelerated the development of innovations in the food industry, generating the so-called “functional foods” and “nutraceuticals“. Whole foods like fruits and vegetables represent the simplest example of functional foods, as they are rich in bioactive compounds and have a well-established protective role against the development of diseases.
Nutraceuticals represent any substance that provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of diseases. Contrarily to functional foods, nutraceuticals are commodities derived from foods used in the medicinal form of pills or capsules. The preparation of foods fortified with functional components requires integration of diverse aspects under evaluation. These include for instance separation techniques, toxicological assessments, stability and activity tests.
On the other hand, processing has an impact on the final food products. Applied technologies may influence the content and effectiveness of nutrients, e.g. loss of bioactive compounds or diminution of their functionality typically increases more and more as foods are processed, stored and transported.
Novel, non-thermal technologies (e.g. ultrasounds, high-hydrostatic pressure, pulsed electric field, high voltage electrical discharge, cold plasma) promise to treat foods without destroying the nutritional components and sensorial characteristics that are normally affected during heat treatment. The latest techniques are today applied in both research institutes and food industries, promising to shorten processing times, control Maillard reactions, improve products’ quality and enhance functionality. The implementation of these technologies together with other trends and practices of the food industry (e.g. nanoencapsulation, food waste recovery, emerging need for innovations etc.) have brought new developments, data and state of the art in the field.
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