Health food is food considered beneficial to health in ways that go beyond a normal healthy diet required for human nutrition. Because there is no precise, authoritative definition from regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, different dietary practices can be considered healthy depending on context.
Foods marketed as "healthy" may be natural foods, organic foods, whole foods, and sometimes vegetarian or dietary supplements. Such products are sold in health food stores or in the health/organic sections of supermarkets.
According to the FDA, "Health claims describe a relationship between a food, food component, or dietary supplement ingredient, and reducing risk of a disease or health-related condition".
In general, claims of health benefits for specific foodstuffs have not been evaluated by national regulatory agencies. Additionally, research funded by manufacturers or marketers that may form the basis of such marketing claims has been shown to result in more favorable results than independently funded research.
While there is no precise definition for "health food", the United States Food and Drug Administration has warned food manufacturers against labeling foods as being "healthy" when they have a high sugar, salt, or fat content.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of foods that have been considered healthy:
- Apple cider vinegar, a fruit vinegar considered a health food
- Broccoli sprouts
- Certain cereal products:
- Corn flakes, patented food invented in 1894
- Digestive biscuit, English baked good from 1851, containing fiber and sometimes sodium bicarbonate
- Graham cracker, cracker made with whole grain Graham flour (1829)
- Graham bread, a type of whole wheat bread
- Granola, a food made from mixed, toasted grains
- Granula, the first manufactured breakfast cereal (1863)
- Grape-Nuts, an American breakfast cereal made from baked and ground grain (1897)
- Muesli, breakfast cereal of rolled oats, fruit and nuts, made by a Swiss doctor (1900)
- Shredded wheat, whole wheat cereal (1893)
- Eggplant, hosts of vitamin and minerals, and also contains important phytonutrients
- Herbal extract, plants, often medicinal that are concentrated and standardized
- Herbal teas
- Honey, a naturally occurring whole sweetener
- Malt, whole sprouted barley
- Meat analogue, a dietary alternative to meat, found in some vegetarian and vegan diets
- Molasses, black strap molasses has been sold as a health food
- Certain oils, including olive oil and fish oil
- Postum, a coffee alternative from 1895
- Yogurt, traditional cultured milk product
- "Claims That Can Be Made for Conventional Foods and Dietary Supplements". U.S. Food and Drug Administration. September 2003. Retrieved 7 November 2010.
- Lenard I. Lesser; Cara B. Ebbeling; Merrill Goozner; David Wypij; David S. Ludwig (January 9, 2007). "Relationship between Funding Source and Conclusion among Nutrition-Related Scientific Articles". PLoS Medicine. 4 (1): e5. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040005. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
Industry funding of nutrition-related scientific articles may bias conclusions in favor of sponsors' products, with potentially significant implications for public health.
- FDA to beef up standards for "health" food labeling, Scientific American
- Messina, Ginny. Healthy Vegan Diets Can Include Meat Analogues - The Vegan R.D.
- Pendergrast, Mark (2010) . Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World (Rev. ed.). New York City: Basic Books. ISBN 9780465018369. OCLC 609871227.