Nutraceuticals: Definition, Role and Use for General Well-being



Interest in nutraceutical foods and supplements is constantly growing, but what does the term ‘nutraceutical’ really mean? At the heart of this question is our daily food, which is often underestimated. This lack of knowledge can have a negative impact on our overall health and can cause serious problems for our well-being.
The key to good health is to eat consciously, following practices that, in many cases, were already known by our grandmothers. These ancient tips, such as the use of olive oil to improve brain health or the daily consumption of a glass of red wine and three walnuts to preserve heart health, are based on wisdom passed down from generation to generation.
Even if the term ‘nutraceutical’ was not known to our grandmothers, it is possible that they understood the concept innately. But what does this term really mean?

Definition of Nutraceuticals: What they are

The term ‘nutraceutical’ was coined by Dr Stephen De Felice in 1989, combining the words ‘nutrition’ and ‘pharmaceuticals’. Nutraceutics is the science that studies active ingredients and components in food or plants that have a positive impact on human health. These active ingredients can be extracted and used to create drugs for the prevention and treatment of various diseases.
In other words, nutraceuticals are beneficial substances that are naturally present in the foods we eat or should eat, and that can contribute to our well-being.

Role of Nutraceutical Supplements

However, it is often not enough to consume large quantities of a particular food to obtain a significant amount of a beneficial nutrient. In these cases, nutraceuticals are concerned with extracting and concentrating these nutrients from foods, making them available in the form of dietary supplements or fortified foods. Nutraceutical supplements contain much higher doses of specific nutrients than the original food.
These beneficial nutrients cannot be taken in sufficient quantities through regular diet, but nutraceutical supplements have been formulated based on extensive research and offer a precise amount of healing substances.
Nutraceuticals are classified as dietary supplements or functional foods, depending on their purpose. In both cases, these products contain additional beneficial substances in addition to their normal nutritional components.

Main Nutraceuticals

The most common nutraceutical substances include vitamins, antioxidants, prebiotics and probiotics, polyphenols, folic acid, Omega 3 and 6, enzyme complexes, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, bioflavonoids and fibres.
It is important to emphasise that nutraceutical supplements should never replace a balanced, healthy diet. They are designed to supplement a proper diet when there is a specific need for more of certain substances, for curative or preventive purposes.

Use of Nutraceutical Supplements

Nutraceutical supplements are considered food products intended to supplement the daily diet. They are used for various purposes, including:

  • Delaying ageing: Many nutraceuticals contain antioxidants that can help prevent cell damage and maintain healthy skin.
  • Strengthening the immune system: Some supplements are designed to support the body’s immune system.
  • Preventing chronic diseases: Supplements can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular, metabolic and other diseases.
  • Supporting general well-being: They can improve certain bodily functions and regulate gastrointestinal functions.
  • Improving cosmetics: Some nutraceuticals are used to improve the physical appearance and health of the skin.

Foods with a Nutraceutical Effect

As an alternative to supplements, many foods are now fortified with beneficial nutrients. These nutraceutical foods provide a natural source of beneficial nutrients.
In Europe, nutraceutical foods must include detailed information on the label about their health benefits. Examples of common nutraceutical foods include milk and yoghurt fortified with calcium, Omega 3, vitamins and probiotics, as well as other specific foods fortified with beneficial substances.


Nutraceuticals, whether in the form of food supplements or fortified foods, have become an important element in promoting general well-being. They provide an effective solution for supplementing a proper diet and meeting specific nutritional needs.
However, it is important to emphasise that no nutraceutical supplement should replace a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. Nutraceuticals should be seen as a complement to improve general well-being and health.

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