By Andrew Shao, Ph.D., vice president, Global Government Affairs, Herbalife Nutrition
April 13, 2017
I was honored and privileged to recently have an entire chapter on meal replacements included in the new textbook, Superfood and Functional Food – An Overview of Their Processing and Utilization, edited by Viduranga Waisundara and Naofumi Shiomi.
With scientific and technological advancements in both nutrition and food science and an increasing demand for personalized nutrition, consumers can select from an array of functional foods and make them part of every day life. In the United States, there is no regulatory definition of “functional food,” but according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “functional foods are whole foods along with fortified, enriched, or enhanced foods that have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis at effective levels based on significant standards of evidence.”
All foods have some function, but there’s a difference with those deemed to be “functional foods.” According to the Academy’s position paper: “All food is essentially functional at some level as it provides energy and nutrients needed to sustain life. However, there is growing evidence that some food components, not considered nutrients in the traditional sense, may provide positive health benefits.”
Why Meal Replacements Qualify as Functional Foods
Meal replacements come in various forms, like Herbalife Nutrition Formula 1 Shake or Formula 1 Express Meal Bars, and they have some common characteristics, beyond taste, aroma or nutritive value, that make them functional foods:
- These products support weight loss and weight maintenance, through portion control and by promoting satiety.
- They are protein enriched, and when combined with resistance exercise, help promote lean body mass to maintain or build lean muscle, and support fat loss.
- Most meal replacement products are fortified with vitamins and minerals, making them nutrient dense and a good source for essential nutrients.
- And finally, they tend to have a low glycemic index and thus, immediately following their consumption, result in a lower peak in blood glucose levels.
Meal replacements are a category of functional food that provide a variety of healthy benefits. Traditionally used for weight management, evidence has accrued in recent years suggesting they provide a host of other benefits, including maintenance of lean body mass, lower glycemic index and by serving as a source of daily nutrition to help fill nutrient gaps in the diet.
Here are some more resources for information about functional foods:
- Functional Foods position paper – American Council on Science and Health
- Functional Foods in Health and Disease
For more information about Formula 1 shakes, check out this video: