Vitamins, minerals, other nutrients and food components, such as antioxidants, DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, fiber, and plant sterols are sometimes added to beverages to provide additional nutritional or health benefit.
Fortified beverages and foods can be useful in helping consumers fill nutrition gaps in the diet, like not getting enough calcium and vitamin D. However, it’s important to understand that consuming fortified foods is not enough to ensure a healthful diet, nor will they ‘make up’ for poor dietary choices like avoiding vegetables or always eating exactly the same foods every day. Instead, fortified foods should be consumed as part of an overall diet that is rich in variety and contains plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, calcium-rich foods, and low-fat proteins.
Because nutrients and beneficial ingredients are of interest to health-conscious consumers, they are often “called out” on food labels to alert shoppers to their presence and potential benefit. These statements may describe the role of a nutrient or dietary ingredient in normal structure or function in the body, such as “calcium builds strong bones”. In addition, they may characterize the means by which a nutrient or ingredient acts to maintain the body’s structure or function; for example, “fiber maintains bowel regularity,” or “antioxidants maintain cell integrity”.
Some beneficial ingredients added to beverages include:
Plant sterols have been shown to reduce cholesterol. The concentrations of plant sterols naturally found in plant foods are not great enough to achieve significant blood cholesterol-lowering effects. However, they can be extracted and added to foods and beverages in amounts that can, as part of a healthy diet, provide cholesterol-lowering benefits. Learn more.
Vitamin C, vitamin A, beta-carotene (vitamin A precursor), and vitamin E are antioxidants, which help to reduce oxidative damage caused by free radicals in the body.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids include ALA, DHA and EPA. Supportive but not conclusive research suggests that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally found in flaxseed, walnuts and certain types of fish. Some enriched foods and beverages such as milk, eggs, fruit juice, yogurt, health bars, and breakfast cereals can be fortified with omega-3 fatty acids. Learn more.
Because there are few naturally occurring sources of vitamin D in the diet, vitamin D is added to milk products and some calcium-fortified juices and soy beverages in the United States. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin obtained through both sunlight and dietary sources. Functionally, Vitamin D acts as a hormone that maintains concentrations of calcium and phosphorus in the blood by enhancing or decreasing absorption of these minerals in the small intestine. Vitamin D also regulates bone metabolism and the deposition of calcium into bones.
Recently, new research suggests that vitamin D may potentially play a significant role in strengthening the body’s defenses against chronic and autoimmune diseases and in controlling the growth of both normal and cancerous cells. The U.S. FDA has developed an approved health claim describing the relationship between calcium, vitamin D, and osteoporosis added to Osteoporosis health claim for use in food labeling.