What is the difference between functional foods and supplements?

In this article, we will explore the topic of functional food and its interaction with our body in comparison to dietary supplement. In my role as a nutritionist and dietitian, I'm often asked what the difference is between these two. This article will explain why it is so important to understand the differences between functional and non-functional foods. We'll also discuss how you can incorporate both in your diet.

Understanding the difference between functional foods and supplements is important

Functional foods have the potential to improve health in ways that go beyond nutrition alone. Fruits, vegetables, grains, meats and dairy products are examples. Supplements, on the other hand are usually in powder, pill or capsule form and contain vitamins, minerals or herbs. It is important to know the differences between these two products as they can have a significant impact on your health.

In a 2017 Journal of Dietary Supplements study , it was found that functional foods as well as supplements could improve health but they interacted differently with the human body. The concentrated nutrients in supplements can be helpful if your body is lacking certain nutrients. Functional foods provide a wider range of nutrients, as well as fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants not found in most supplements.

How to Start: Adding Functional Foods and Nutritional Supplements to Your Diet

It's best to speak to a health professional before making significant dietary changes. The healthcare professional can evaluate your nutritional status and make appropriate recommendations. Remember that supplements may fill in nutritional gaps but they should not replace a healthy diet with functional foods.

According to a study by the University of Minnesota, the best way for you to reap the benefits of functional foods is by incorporating them into your meals and snacks. It's crucial to stick to the dosage recommended for supplements. Excessive intake of these can have adverse side effects.

Foods that are Functional and their Benefits

Other Tips to Maximize the Benefits from Functional Foods and supplements

Remember to keep a balance in your approach when incorporating functional food and supplements into your daily diet. A diet that is too reliant on one food type or supplement may lead to nutritional imbalances. When making changes to your diet, you should also consider the health of each individual, their lifestyle and their dietary preferences. If you're a vegan or a vegetarian, for example, certain nutritional supplements may be required to help you meet your needs. Remember that a balanced diet is only one part of an overall wellness program. Exercise, sleep, stress-management, and medical checks are all equally important.


Both functional foods as well as supplements have important roles to play in the nutrition. They may interact in different ways with our body, but they complement one another to promote overall health. We can better make informed decisions about our diets by understanding and implementing these differences. There is no such thing as a one-size fits all approach to nutrition. It's important to customize your diet according to your individual needs.