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Functional Foods: Biochemical and Processing Aspects.
Functional Foods: Biochemical and Processing Aspects.

Functional Foods: Biochemical and Processing Aspects. Edited by G. Mazza. Technomic Publishing Co., Inc., 1998, 460 pp., hardcover. ISBN 1-56676-487-4. $99.00 (not available through ABC).

Asian Foods: Science and Technology. Edited by C.Y.W. Ang et al. Technomic Publishing Co., Inc., 1999, 546 pp., hardcover. ISBN 1-56676-736-9. $99.00 (not available through ABC)

Hippocrates is credited with saying words to the effect, "Food should be your medicine; your medicine should be your food." While other cultures have long recognized the functional health benefits of foods, this concept is only now becoming popular in the United States and other developed countries.

Functional foods are foods that have some other beneficial effects or uses besides their gustatory delights and nutritional value. For example, a functional food in the news recently is oats, reported to prevent the sluggish bloodflow brought on by fatty meals that can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

About 30 scientists and researchers from around the world contributed 13 chapters for Functional Foods: Biochemical and Processing Aspects. It provides a fairly up-to-date review of the available science and health benefits on popular medicinal foods such as oats, wheat bran, rice, grape and citrus products, cruciferous vegetables, onions and garlic, mustard, a variety of vegetable oils, some "exotic" foods from Latin America (e.g., amaranth and quinoa), beans, milk and dairy products, and seafood lipids. A few herbs are also covered such as echinacea, ginseng, sea buckthorn, some South American herbs, flaxseed, and, again, garlic.

The herbal reviews are, for the most part, cursory, and rather dated. The work on garlic, flax, and other dietary supplements derived from foods are more complete, especially that for garlic.

A chapter on the regulatory aspects of functional food products is useful for companies or individuals who have little knowledge of the subject. The chapter reviews current regulations in North America, Japan, and Europe, along with what categories of foods and what claims are allowed in each country.

Functional Foods is a good overview of the fascinating and economically important world of medicinal foods and common derivative products. Most of the functional foods reviews are referenced with primary literature that is fairly recent and complete, but not exhaustive. Much better books exist for recent reviews for the few herbs in the book that are not also foods (e.g., echinacea and ginseng) such as Herbal MedicineExpanded Commission E Monographs (M. Blumenthal et al, 2000).

You can buy this book online. If you are interested in food science, peruse the publishers website, <>, where numerous books in this category are listed alphabetically. I found many interesting books, especially Asian Foods: Science & Technology.

Asian Foods provides detailed information on the history, manufacture, home preparation of all kinds of foods and food products used in some traditional Asian diets. Instructions are given on how to make tofu, and a variety of fermented and non-fermented dairy and bread products, meat products, fruit, and vegetable products prepared and consumed in China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and other countries (though the focus is decidedly on Chinese cuisine and culture). The book reviews cultural and nutritional differences between a number of traditional Asian diets with a chapter on the health implications and nutritional analyses of these Asian diets and supplements. A bibliography of detailed nutritional analyses for 16 different Asian diets is included.

I found the section on seaweeds particularly interesting, though it was too brief.

The best section for herb lovers is on Chinese foods with medicinal qualities. This section covers dozens of foods arranged both by their effects (such as expectorants, laxatives, and digestion-promoting, and cholesterol-lowering effects) and in a materia medica style arranged by botanical family. This section provides a good overview of these herbs that are often added to foods for their healing properties, but the sources of information are mostly from secondary sources like Bensky and Gambles 1986 edition of Chinese Herbal Materia Medica and Huangs Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs. Newer editions of both works have been out for some time.

Buy this book if you are interested in Asian foods and their traditional preparation, or if you want a brief overview of some of the most commonly-used Chinese herbs added to food dishes. If you want a more up-to-date or complete review of the latter, go to the newer editions of Bensky and Gamble and Huang. I will review books on Chinese medicinal herbal foods in a later issue of HerbalGram, as a number of good ones are in print.

Christopher Hobbs, L.Ac., A.H.G.