If you’re looking for natural health solutions and alternative therapies, you may have come across the term “nutraceutical.” Nutraceuticals are an important part of natural health, and have incredible uses, benefits, and potential.
This article will cover what exactly nutraceuticals are, some common nutraceuticals and their uses, and how they can benefit your health.
What Are Nutraceuticals?
The term “nutraceutical” comes from “nutrition” and pharmaceutical.” A nutraceutical is a naturally-derived substance, product, food, or supplement that offers some health benefit or protection against illness.
A nutraceutical is similar to a pharmaceutical in the sense that it can be used to help prevent or treat disease, but different in that it is not patented or necessarily manufactured. Many nutraceuticals have been naturally-derived and used by humans for centuries, with well-known therapeutic properties and uses.
Some well-known examples of nutraceuticals include green tea, omega-3 fatty acids, ginseng, glucosamine, lutein, folic acid, and cod liver oil (more on these later).
Nutraceutical foods or food components, such as these examples, naturally contain therapeutic properties, and thus have both nutritional and therapeutic uses and potential.
Nutraceuticals have great potential as natural remedies and alternative or complementary treatments, and are increasingly being studied and tested for the improvement of human health. Studies investigating different nutraceuticals have found various beneficial uses for all sorts of significant chronic conditions and diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, neurological disorders, allergies, and more (1) – more on this below.
Nutraceuticals vs Pharmaceuticals
Nutraceuticals are similar to pharmaceuticals in that they can both help prevent or treat disease and/or improve health and wellbeing. However, they have some key differences.
One main difference between them is that pharmaceuticals are manufactured and patented, whereas nutraceuticals typically occur naturally in common foods and plants that can be obtained without a prescription or patent.
Another main difference is that pharmaceuticals are meant to serve a specific therapeutic purpose in terms of health, whereas nutraceuticals often have multiple uses and can offer therapeutic benefits as well as inherent nutritional value. (They are often rich in essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds)
Nutraceuticals: Food or Drug?
Nutraceuticals can be considered both food and drug in one. While they are derived from food sources, their concentrated and targeted health benefits give them drug-like characteristics.
Nutraceuticals vs Supplements
So, is a nutraceutical just a supplement?
Many nutraceuticals can be used as a form of supplement, and many supplements are indeed nutraceuticals, but not all.
The main difference between nutraceuticals and supplements is that supplements are the more isolated form of a particular vitamin, mineral, herbal extract, other dietary ingredient, etc., generally taken for a particular purpose (ex: vitamin pills to reduce a specific deficiency), whereas nutraceuticals are often taken in a more holistic form and can both satisfy specific nutritional needs as well as provide/offer additional health benefits.
Types of Nutraceuticals
Nutraceuticals can come in various form, including:
- pills (capsules, tablets)
- fortified foods
Common Nutraceuticals and Their Benefits
The following are some popular nutraceuticals that you may have heard of.
Green Tea: Green tea is well-known for its rich antioxidant content, particularly catechins like EGCG. These antioxidants help neutralize free radicals, reduce inflammation, and may support heart health and weight management.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3s, found in fatty fish like salmon and certain nuts and seeds, have been extensively studied for their cardiovascular benefits. They can help lower triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, and support brain health.
Ginseng: Ginseng is an adaptogenic herb that may help the body cope with stress and improve overall well-being. It has been associated with enhanced cognitive function and may help reduce fatigue.
Glucosamine: Often used as a supplement to support joint health, glucosamine is believed to help with cartilage repair and reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Lutein: Lutein is a carotenoid found in green leafy vegetables, known for its role in supporting eye health and reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Folic Acid: Folic acid, a B-vitamin, is crucial for DNA synthesis and cell division. It is especially important for pregnant women as it helps prevent neural tube defects in babies.
Cod Liver Oil: Cod liver oil is a rich source of omega-3s and vitamin D, providing benefits for bone health and immune function.
Is CBD Oil a Nutraceutical?
CBD oil can be considered a nutraceutical. It is derived from the cannabis plant and is believed to offer various health benefits, including pain relief, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep.
Is Avocado a Nutraceutical?
Avocado can be considered a nutraceutical. It is a nutrient-dense fruit rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, making it beneficial for heart health and overall well-being.
Is Coffee a Nutraceutical?
Coffee, while not traditionally considered a nutraceutical, does contain antioxidants and bioactive compounds that may offer some health benefits. However, its status as a nutraceutical is debatable, as it is more commonly known for its caffeine content and stimulating effects.
Is Olive Oil a Nutraceutical?
Olive oil is a prime example of a nutraceutical. It is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, making it beneficial for heart health and inflammation reduction.
Are Probiotics Nutraceuticals?
Probiotics are considered nutraceuticals. These live microorganisms, often found in yogurt and other fermented foods or available as supplements, promote a healthy gut microbiome and aid in digestion.
What is the Difference Between Herbal Medicine and Nutraceuticals?
The use of nutraceuticals is very similar to herbal medicine. In fact, herbal medicine often incorporates nutraceuticals in its practice.
Herbal medicine primarily involves using specific plants or plant extracts for their medicinal properties. Nutraceuticals are used similarly, but are more holistic in that they encompass a broader range of naturally-derived substances that offer both nutritional and therapeutic benefits.
What is Another Name for a Nutraceutical?
Nutraceuticals are sometimes referred to as “functional foods,” “bioactive compounds,” or “nutritional supplements.”
In conclusion, nutraceuticals are natural substances that offer both nutritional and therapeutic benefits, and have great potential to support various aspects of health and wellbeing.
I hope this article was informative and eye-opening to the world of nutraceuticals! I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!