Functional foods are thought by many to
have health-promoting and disease-preventing benefits that go beyond
basic nutrition. In fact, scientific research indicates there are many
clinically demonstrated and potential health benefits from food
components. As we realize the extent to which what we eat can affect
health, functional foods have become more important.
While functional attributes of many
traditional foods are being discovered, new food products are being
developed with beneficial health components. Bread is a functional food
that not only has a variety of nutrients, it also tastes great. Both
whole and enriched grains contain numerous benefits that the public—and
often the nutrition community—may not fully realize.
Whole grains, for example, have many
naturally occurring nutrients. They are an important source of
antioxidants and fiber including B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron
and numerous other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. As part of a
healthy diet, whole grains may reduce the risks associated with heart
disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
Enriched white bread is fortified with
folic acid, which has been proven to reduce the occurrence of neural
tube defects. In fact, enriched grains are the primary source of folic
acid in Americans’ diets and, according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, have been credited with lowering neural tube
defects by 34 percent in white, non-Hispanics and 36 percent in
Hispanics since folic acid fortification of enriched grains became
Since that 1998 mandate, 1,000 babies
each year have been spared from neural tube defects. Folic acid is
added to enriched grains at twice the amount of that found in whole
grains and is the key source of iron and fiber in children’s diets.
Additionally, folic acid has been linked to decreasing the risk of
coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease and
As more rapid advances in science and
technology are happening, new bread formulations are being discovered
and going to market. The popularity of whole grain products and blends
has fueled incredible product innovation with hundreds of new products
introduced in the past few years.
These new bread products and
formulations are packing in more nutrients than ever before through
unique grain combinations and increased fortification. For example,
some breads are being fortified with Omega-3s, which have been linked
to heart health; calcium, which is beneficial for bone health; and
various kinds of fiber including resistant starches. Many bakers also
have created gluten-free breads for consumers with Celiac disease and
other wheat allergies.
Additionally, innovations like white
whole-wheat flour have given birth to a new category of “tan” breads
that look like white bread but contain whole grain flour. These are
often more palatable for fussy children to allow their peanut butter
and jelly to rest on. While foods made of wheat, rye, oat and other
enriched grains and flours provide a low-fat, low-calorie nutritious
source of essential carbohydrates, white whole-wheat gives consumers
who love the taste of classic white bread all of the additional
nutrients found in whole grain.
By seeking out foods that provide
specific nutrition benefits, you can take greater control of your
health and lifestyle. In fact, eating a well-balanced diet that
incorporates naturally nutrient-rich foods, like bread and grains, is
an easy, enjoyable and delicious way to get your daily dose of vitamins.
For more recipes and information about the benefits of grain foods, log on to www.grainpower.org.
Breakfast Fruit Turnovers
Developed by Sara Moulton for the Grain Foods Foundation.
2 slices enriched white bread, crusts removed
2 tablespoons chopped dried apples
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Vanilla yogurt for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out
bread with a rolling pin until flattened to about -inch. Stir together
apples and cranberries. Brush some of the butter on the edges of the
bread. Mound half of the dried fruit mixture just right of center in
the middle of each piece of bread. Fold over the bread to form a
triangle and enclose the filling. Pinch the edges of the bread together
firmly to seal. Arrange in one layer on a small baking sheet and brush
the top of each turnover with the remaining butter. Bake the turnovers
in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until pale golden.
Top each turnover with a spoonful of vanilla yogurt, if desired. Makes
Parmesan-Toasted Trail Mix
Developed by Robin Miller on behalf of the Grain Foods Foundation.
3 cups whole grain O-shaped cereal
1½ cups small pretzels
1 cup cheese crackers or animal crackers
cup blanched almonds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (such as canola)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all
ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat. Spread mixture out on a
baking sheet in an even layer. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly
toasted. Serves 6 to 8.
—Courtesy of ARAcontent