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Top 6 Functional Foods and Beverages at Good Food and Wine Show

functional foods on a white table

 Written & scientifically reviewed by Isabella Truong

Key Takeaways

  • Functional foods provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition.
  • The demand for functional foods is rising due to their added benefits.
  • Examples include black-aged garlic, ceremonial cacao, turmeric paste, kombucha, almond milk, and mineral water.
  • Black-aged garlic is suitable for low FODMAP diets and has high antioxidant properties.
  • Kombucha supports gut health with its probiotics and antioxidants.
  • Ceremonial cacao is rich in antioxidants and minerals, enhancing cognitive function.
  • Turmeric offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
  • Almonds provide essential nutrients and support digestive health.
  • Natural alkaline mineral water offers hydration and potential benefits.
  • 2024 trends in functional foods include personalization, clean labels, plant-based options, gut health, mental well-being, and sustainable practices.

Learn about functional foods and read about our recent discoveries of the latest functional foods we tasted at The Sydney Good Food & Wine Show - a fusion of delicious flavours and powerful health benefits beyond conventional food options.

The Bircher Bar team ventured to The Sydney Good Food and Wine Show intending to indulge our taste buds and enjoy a weekend of fun. Little did we expect to unearth delectable foods and beverages that not only delighted but also boasted high-quality ingredients, perfectly aligned with our principles of health and well-being.

In today’s fast-paced world, prioritising health has become more crucial than ever, and the demand for functional foods is at the forefront of this movement.

These functional foods not only satisfy hunger but also provide additional health benefits, leveraging unique bioactive compounds and specific ingredients to promote overall well-being.

The food industry is increasingly focusing on these enhanced foods to meet the growing demand for healthier options.

Some of the food and beverages we came across and tasted were black-aged garlic, ceremonial cacao, turmeric paste, kombucha, almond milk, and mineral water. Each of these is considered a nutraceutical, providing health benefits beyond basic nutrition.

Definition of Functional Foods

The definition for functional foods goes beyond basic nutrition, a concept that dates back to 1984 originating in Japan. Functional foods offer targeted health benefits through natural food, fortified food, or enriched ingredients.

They may include vitamins, minerals, probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other health-enhancing substances.

From improving digestion to boosting cognitive function and supporting heart health, these foods are tailored to meet diverse health needs.

Some functional foods even include items specifically designed to address conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These foods are renowned for their beneficial effect on health and potential to reduce the risk of diseases.

Examples of common functional foods include fortified cereals, probiotics, and enriched dairy products, which are specifically designed to enhance health and prevent chronic disease.

Top 6 Functional Foods and Beverages at Good Food and Wine Show

1) Black Aged Garlic

the inside of a black garlic

We came across this stand and tasted this wonderfully black superfood! Garlic, as we know, has many great benefits, including heart health and antioxidant properties, but people with conditions such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) need to avoid garlic and follow a low FODMAP diet to minimize their symptoms such as bloating, cramping, flatulence, or diarrhea.

On the other hand, black-aged garlic has reduced fructan content through the aging process, making it more tolerant for individuals who need to be on a low FODMAP diet.

This is an excellent example of functional food that has been adapted to improve health outcomes for specific dietary requirements. Noosa Black Garlic, an award-winning producer, harnesses this process to enhance the antioxidant content and reduce the pungent aroma associated with raw garlic. They incorporate the "Maillard Reaction," which results in their "special onyx gems" to produce a milder, sweet umami taste while retaining high levels of bioactive compounds with antioxidant properties, including polyphenols, organosulfur and flavonoids. As a result of this process, it transforms ordinary garlic into a potent superfood.

two bottles of noosa black garlic cloves and paste

2) Kombucha

homemade kombucha in a glass bottle and two people drinking a glass of it

Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea, bacteria, yeast, and sugar. It has been around for some time, offering a great beverage alternative that is low in sugar and effervescent whilst giving you a natural dose of probiotics. As a functional food, it offers numerous health benefits, particularly for gut health. The beneficial effects of kombucha are attributed to the presence of bioactive compounds that act synergistically. Bacteria contained in kombucha beverages, and the yeasts along with glucuronic acid, contribute to health protection, promoting good gut health.

Mailer McGuire is an award-winning kombucha company, hand-brewed and crafted in Australia. We were really taken with the flavour profiles owner Ro could achieve with their unique blends and varieties. As avid kombucha drinkers, we walked away with a few bottles to enjoy. We find kombucha a great way to incorporate probiotics from the fermented tea along with the antioxidants (polyphenols) that are retained from the tea. Functional foods like kombucha may help improve health by promoting a balanced gut microbiome.

a person holding a mailer mcguire jasmine green tea kombucha

3) Ceremonial Cacao

ceremonial cacao functional food

Ceremonial Cacao is 100% pure cacao and is grown and prepared with intention and ritual by indigenous communities. It is not meant to be consumed daily and is saved for special and spiritual occasions. Cacao is rich in antioxidants (flavanols) and minerals (iron, magnesium, and zinc) and contains caffeine and high levels of theobromine. Theobromine showcases neuroprotective attributes, enhances cognitive function, and holds promise in mitigating age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disorders. With all these available bioactive components, it classifies cacao as a functional food.

Sacred Taste is a producer of premium organic, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, preservative-free, vegan drinking cacao. We stopped by their stall, and Clair took our taste buds on a sacred journey whilst enriching our hearts and minds with the unique differences between cacao and ceremonial-grade cacao. The taste is absolutely delectable. My favourite flavours were the chilli and matcha blend. Functional foods like ceremonial cacao offer significant health benefits, making them valuable additions to any diet aiming to enhance both physical and mental well-being.

three flavours of the sacred taste ceremonial cacao powder

4) Turmeric

turneric powder in a wooden bowl

Turmeric is a common spice found in most household pantries. It has been used in Asian cuisine and for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It is rich in curcumin, a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that may help reduce joint pain and inflammation such as arthritis, along with many other health benefits such as cognitive function, digestive health, and liver detoxification. Its versatile properties make turmeric a valuable functional ingredient for promoting overall well-being and longevity. Examples of functional food include turmeric lattes and turmeric paste, which provide health benefits beyond conventional food options. You can read all the benefits of Tumeric here.

Totally Rawesome is a range of turmeric paste and products that are responsibly sourced, certified organic, ethically created and safe for both humans and animals alike. Owners Jen and Jason shared a touching story about why they created this product to help their dog who developed arthritis. They saw such amazing results which led them to create their business to offer the health benefits of turmeric to everyone. Their paste was really well formulated and tasted amazing as a latte with plant-based milk. We particularly enjoyed their Chai Turmeric Paste version and purchased one home to enjoy and incorporate turmeric into our diet.

a bottle of the totally rawesome chai turmeric paste

5) Almonds

a bowl of almonds and some almond milk on the side

Almonds contain several compounds with remarkable functions in the human body. They are rich sources of carbohydrates (mainly dietary fibre), fatty acids, proteins, and amino acids, as well as vitamins, minerals, and secondary metabolites. The use of almonds as a health-promoting food dates back a long time; the ancient Greeks, Persians, Chinese, and Indians habitually consumed them for medical purposes in their tradition.

We came across Mandolé Orchard, which produces plant-based milk, along with almond spreads and straight-up OG almonds. They use activated almonds, a process that soaks the almonds for 24 hours in water overnight and helps to break down phytates and enzyme inhibitors, which help in the absorption of the almond's nutrients in the digestive tract. What we liked about this product was the high content of almonds in their milk, minus all the extra additives such as oils, gums, and stabilisers. The taste felt clean with a strong almond flavour — it went well with our daily matcha and mushroom elixirs. This focus on natural, whole foods is an excellent example of how functional foods can improve health by providing essential nutrients in their purest form.

mandole orchard almonds, almond butter, almond milk, and a tote bag

6) Natural Alkaline Mineral Water

alkaline mineral water in a clear glass

Mineral water is nature's functional beverage containing natural minerals and is alkaline in nature. Our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water, and every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work properly. We have no way of storing water, and thus daily supplementation is imperative for our survival. There is an increasing trend of evidence that claims health benefits in drinking alkaline water, which is based on its capability to neutralise and scavenge radicals present in the cells.

We stopped by GTG Living Water to learn about their water and what makes them unique. Their water is sourced from a spring in Albania located in a valley in the province of Zagoria, where no farming has been done, which means that no fertilizers are ever used, thus no contamination of the aquifer, to supply the purest water. The water bottled is in its purest form, because of where the spring is located, GTG's water is naturally alkaline and mineralised when the water passes through the rocks in the mountains. Whereas some bottled alkaline water goes through a chemical process called electrolysis to obtain the same result. With its mineralised contents, we feel energised to drink the water throughout the day. This example highlights how functional foods may be derived from natural sources to enhance health benefits.

Grab yourself a pack HERE and let me know what you think!

a bottle of the gtg living water

2024 Trends in Functional Foods

As we step into 2024, several trends are shaping the landscape of health and wellness whilst providing health benefits of functional foods:

1. Personalisation

Consumers are increasingly seeking personalised nutrition tailored to their individual health needs. With many different dietary requirements and concerns, people no longer want the one-size-fits-all mindset. Personalized functional foods can help manage conditions such as diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Companies like Noosa Black Garlic are innovating with products such as black-aged garlic, renowned for its enhanced antioxidant properties and potential cardiovascular benefits, which is a great way for people to incorporate these benefits into their low FODMAP diet, which is not normally available to them.

2. Clean Label

Transparency matters more than ever. Consumers are drawn to functional foods free from additives and artificial ingredients.

Sometimes it can be misleading when marketed as a healthy alternative, but when you look closer at a label, it contains other additive ingredients to alter the taste or texture of the product. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulate these labels to ensure consumer safety.

Mondole Orchard Almond Milk is great at showcasing this transparency, using only activated almonds, a source of prebiotic fibre, supporting digestive health in a delicious, plant-based format, minus all the other unnecessary ingredients.

3. Plant-Based Power

The rise of plant-based diets continues to influence food products. Consuming fresh ingredients high in seasonal fruits and vegetables would be the best way to get all the beneficial bioactive components. Hence, we see the rise in veganism, vegetarianism, and even flexitarians.

Companies like Totally Rawsome are onto this health benefit and have incorporated turmeric into a paste that is rich in anti-inflammatory curcumin, catering to consumers looking for natural remedies and sustainable options.

These plant-based alternatives are examples of functional foods that offer significant health benefits while supporting sustainability.

4. Gut Health Revolution

Probiotics, prebiotics, and fibre-rich options are gaining popularity for their ability to support a healthy gut microbiome.

With the rise in awareness that having a good gut microbiome is the cornerstone to good health, finding ways to incorporate these synbiotics into daily routines is really important.

Mailer Maguire Kombucha exemplifies this trend with kombucha drinks that not only support gut health through natural fermentation but also promote clean and natural ingredients.

These functional foods may help improve health by promoting a balanced gut microbiome.

5. Mind-Body Connection

Functional foods are increasingly addressing mental well-being since mental health is now one of the key areas of concern when addressing health in today's generation.

Practices such as mindfulness are becoming normal rituals for people's routines and are even incorporated into diet recommendations like "mindful eating". Being conscious of what we put into our bodies is a key step in harnessing our health and wellness.

Companies like We Are Sacred offer ceremonial-grade cacao, understand this.  Cacao traditionally has been produced with intention and is known for its mood-enhancing properties and rich nutritional profile, supporting emotional balance and stress relief.

Adding cacao to your daily routine is a wonderful way to add this functional food to achieve this mind-body connection.

6. Sustainable and Ethical Practices

Consumers are prioritizing sustainability and ethical sourcing because they recognize that these practices contribute to long-term economic stability and social well-being.

People now have purchasing power and want to support industries and businesses that are working towards a more sustainable future for everyone.

GTG Living Water offers mineral water sourced responsibly, meeting consumer demand for products that align with environmental and social values.

Going Through the Functional Foods Market

a woman shopping for functional foods at a market

When exploring functional foods, consider products that align with your health goals, values and even preferences. Understanding evidence-based health claims will help you make the conscious decision to incorporate these foods into your daily diet. And as always seek guidance from healthcare professionals or nutrition experts if unsure or needing a more personalized approach if you have a specific health concern you wish to address.

FAQs

Q1. What are examples of functional foods?

Functional foods offer targeted health benefits through natural food, fortified food, or enriched ingredients. Fresh fruits and vegetables are considered functional foods due to their phytonutrient content eg cruciferous vegetables contain lots of sulforaphane which is a strong antioxidant that aids inflammation.

Fortified foods such as yoghurt with added strains of probiotics is another example of foods enriched with added good bacteria to provide a healthy gut microbiome.

Ideally, you would want to eat whole foods but where needed foods enriched with added nutrients can be a great way to incorporate any additional nutrients you are missing out on.

We mentioned a few more of the functional foods above such as black-aged garlic, turmeric, almond milk, ceremonial cacao, kombucha and mineral water.

Q2. What is the difference between a functional food and a superfood?

Functional foods would be a class of food and beverages that offer the targeted health benefit.

A superfood is considered or classed as a functional food as it provides a health benefit due to its natural components. Examples of Superfoods include fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season and multi-coloured as they contain rich phytonutrients or phytochemicals that give the body the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals as well as fibre to keep our bodies healthy and functioning optimally.

Q3. What is the difference between functional foods and nutraceuticals?

A nutraceutical is a “food or elements of food obtained from plant or animal origin with significant medical or health benefits” mostly employed to prevent or cure diseases.

An example of this is Turmeric which is a spice used in food that has been formulated into a tablet form as a supplement to aid in medical conditions such as pain and inflammation.

Eating functional foods is a great way to naturally obtain nutrients and because of the wonderful benefits, you see companies take these learning and then extract these ingredients from the plant or animal to then mass produce it into a supplement form hence nutraceuticals are born.

Final Thoughts

Functional foods represent a dynamic intersection of nutrition and wellness, offering innovative solutions to support optimal health in 2024 and beyond. Whether you're enhancing your gut health with kombucha, boosting your antioxidant intake with aged black garlic, or exploring the benefits of plant-based alternatives, there's a functional food to suit every lifestyle and health need.

With the fast-paced lifestyle in the modern world, most of us are trying to pack as many nutrients as possible in our diets. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts about your journey with functional foods, and how it could contribute to your journey towards holistic well-being.

Isabella Truong

Isabella Truong has a Master of Pharmacy degree from The University of Canberra and her experience in health includes practicing in community pharmacy and working in the health and supplements industry for over 15 years. She’s worked with some of Australia’s largest supplement brands in Australia such as Blackmores, Bioceuticals and Thompson’s herbal.

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