Ancient Food Ingredients: What’s Old is New

Newswise — As consumers overseas embrace foods and beverages made with ingredients long known to have health and wellness benefits, American manufacturers can take a cue from their success and add such medicinal ingredients to their foods and beverages, according to a scientific discussion at the 2010 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo®.

Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides, Inc. in Tualatin, Ore., pointed to a growing body of research that supports the effectiveness of a wide range of ingredients from all over the world on various ailments and conditions, from inflammation to digestion to cognitive function. She named several “rock star” ingredients from around the globe, such as kefir from Russia, adzuki beans from Japan and black currant from the European Union, among many others.

Badaracco notes that consumer are more open than ever in discussing health problems such as digestion and dementia and credits the pharmaceutical industry in part with bringing those issues to the forefront. “Pharmaceuticals are breaking down taboos for the food industry and that opens the door – we can talk about digestion, we can talk about cognitive function,” she said.

Carlos Barroso, president and founder of CJB & Associates in Dallas, explained that timing is right for such products, given the ongoing demand for “authentic” foods. Already, probiotic-enriched foods that have been popular overseas for years are a hit in this country. “It’s not a European phenomenon anymore – it’s already a multimillion dollar business here,” he said, adding that traditional incentives like marketplace success are as important as ever. “You can certainly make money from importing health and wellness trends from outside the U.S.”

Barroso says the next step is to use food as a way to deliver health properties. He cited a dietary supplement called triphala, made with a natural extract of three fruits. “Why put it into a pill? What about a natural triphala fruit snack?” Speaker Kara Nielsen, a "trendologist" at the Center for Culinary Development in San Francisco, Calif., said that food product developers here can easily and successfully incorporate such medicinal ingredient into food products that already have a certain cultural flair: using the Indian spice turmeric, shown to have healthful properties, in Indian-style simmer sauces, for example. “And don’t ignore common wisdom built on folk remedies – like enhanced chicken soup or extra cinnamon in baked goods,” she added.

About IFTThe Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT’s mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere.

For more than 70 years, the IFT has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a dynamic global forum where members from more than 100 countries can share, learn, and grow. We champion the use of sound science across the food value chain through the exchange of knowledge, by providing education, and by furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit