Nutraceuticals (a combination of “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical”) are foods or beneficial substances that have been derived from foods, which have been shown to have a positive influence on human health, including protecting our bodies from chronic illnesses, improving overall health, increasing life expectancy, and slowing the aging process.
Omega-3 fatty acids, beta carotene, insoluble fibre (wheat bran), and lactobacillus (the good bacteria associated with yogurt) are all considered to be nutraceuticals because all of these diverse substances originate from natural food sources.
Nutraceuticals is a broadly defined umbrella category that can include vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, enzymes, organ tissues, glandulars, and metabolites.
These substances can be packaged as extracts, tablets, capusles, gelcaps, softgels, liquids and powders. They can also be added to food products to increase health benefits (such as when Vitamin D is added to milk or bread is fortified). Or they can occur naturally in the foods we eat at levels high enough to confer health benefits (Omega-3 in salmon).
Nutraceuticals are the embodiment the age-old concept of food as medicine, a concept that has been handed down through the generations from the ancient Sumerians, Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese and numerous native traditions.
Nutraceuticals have long played a major role in alternative medicine, which has always recognized that we are only as healthy as the food we eat.