What are functional ingredients?
These bioactive compounds are found naturally in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains; marine sources like algae; and microorganisms like bacteria and yeast. They can be isolated and then added to processed foods to increase their nutritional value. For instance, beta-glucan, a soluble fiber extracted from oats or barley, is often added to baked goods, granola bars, and breakfast cereals to increase their fiber content and make them more filling.How do functional ingredients work?
Functional ingredients target specific cellular processes, molecular pathways, or enzymatic reactions to support overall health and well-being. For example, research shows that antioxidants can help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, preventing cellular damage and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
From reducing inflammation to enhancing cognitive function, the health benefits of functional ingredients are countless, and science has barely scratched the surface of what their possibilities are.
5 functional ingredients that support your body from the inside out.
Under the umbrella of functional ingredients come many nutrients with myriad benefits: antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, botanical extracts, phytochemicals, hydrocolloids, fatty acids — the list goes on.
In this section, we’ll explore 5 dietary powerhouses that stand out from all of them. Many of these functional ingredients enrich the functional beverages Buchi brings to you. We isolate these ingredients from intentionally-sourced certified organic, whole foods and prioritize regenerative growers and sustainable suppliers. So what you’re getting from your drink is not just delicious but also sustainable and the most nutritious it can be.
Probiotics are beneficial live microorganisms, like bacteria and yeasts, that help maintain a healthy microbiome. Mounting research shows that a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut isn’t just about digestion and regularity: it’s the wellspring that nourishes your whole body, including your immune health, skin health, and mental health (we wrote about how that works here)! You’ll find a whole host of probiotics in functional beverages like kombucha and water kefir; and in foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. In our book, the more fermented, the better! It’s been said that these foods give you a natural dose of probiotics that outlive what you may find in pricey over-the-counter pills.
At Buchi, we use live, active cultures of microorganisms in our beverages to support your health and help your gut thrive.
It’s good to have hundreds of varieties of probiotics in your stomach, but all that doesn’t matter if the bacteria and yeasts have nothing to eat! Prebiotics, the food of bacteria, are indigestible compounds (like fiber, only better) that help your gut microbiota thrive and release the beneficial chemicals (postbiotics) that kick off the positive effects on your wellness. Fun fact: there are as many bacteria in your gut as stars in the sky – and they need lots of food. The best part is that some of your favorite foods already contain lots of prebiotics, like whole grains, bananas, asparagus, apple skins, and even cocoa, so you’re getting a dose of these functional ingredients in your daily diet.
Want to maximize the power of your kombucha? Use it in a smoothie with plenty of prebiotics – here’s a recipe! You can also get a whopping 9 grams of nourishing plant fiber from drinking our Wild Pop soda!
3. L-Theanine (Amino Acids)
Sometimes deciding whether to drink or not to drink coffee can feel like choosing between nervous jitters that end with a crash and lethargy that ends with a 3-hour nap. Up too early? Big day today? Racing deadlines? What you want isn’t average caffeine. What you want is L-theanine.
L-theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in black and green tea leaves (and also some mushrooms) that hits that sweet spot: promoting relaxation without causing drowsiness. Science reports that L-theanine can reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus and cognitive function, and even enhance sleep quality. It works by increasing dopamine and serotonin production and enhancing alpha wave activity in the brain, which relaxes you.
When combined with clean caffeine (extracted from unroasted green coffee beans), L-Theanine can improve cognitive performance and increase focus without the jitters or crashes – that’s what you’ll get in Buchi’s Living Energy drinks.
4. Plant-based Polyphenols
There’s a reason the eminent food journalist and author Michael Pollan decreed “Eat food. Mostly plants.” Some of the best diets in the world, like the Mediterranean diet, are plant-rich and the WHO stipulates that a healthy adult should get “at least 400 g of fruit and vegetables per day excluding… starchy roots.”
Plant-based polyphenols are a diverse group of naturally occurring bioactive compounds that contribute to the color and taste of plants and their fruit. They serve an important secondary function: to protect them from stress. For humans, they do the same. They suppress inflammation, support immunity, and prevent the progression of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, cancers, and cardiovascular diseases.
Like probiotics, these antioxidants act on the body through the gut-brain axis, which is why you’ll find plenty of berries and other colorful fruit powering up our probiotic drinks.
Try our Summit Kefir Soda with polyphenol-rich echinacea.
Along with plant-based polyphenols, carotenoids reign among functional ingredients. They have many of the same great benefits as other plant-derived nutrients: they fight inflammation, promote immunity, etc. But what sets them apart is that some carotenoids can improve vitamin A activity, making them uniquely beneficial for skin (if you use retinol in your skincare routine you’ll know!), bone, reproductive, and, famously, eye health.
In plants and algae, they absorb light energy for use in photosynthesis and are responsible for the naturally occurring pigments found in plant-based foods. They are responsible for the vibrant red, orange, and yellow colors in carrots, watermelons, red and yellow bell peppers, pumpkins, and squash. There are over 600 types of carotenoids.
As carotenoids are fat-soluble, we recommend you consume them with healthy fat to maximize their absorption into the body. Here’s a great recipe for muffins made from our Sovereign Kombucha that are made from healthy ingredients while still serving your sweet tooth!
Embracing Wellness and Sustainability: The Future of Functional Beverages with FedUp Foods and Buchi
The food and beverage industry is constantly evolving, but one development is here to stay: a focus on wellness. Spurred by the pandemic, U.S. adults are more nutritionally savvy than ever. The notion of food as medicine, the understanding of the microbiome’s relationship to overall health, and the desire to optimize physical and mental performance have all led to a booming functional beverage market, valued at $147,472.5 million in 2022 and expected to grow at a rate of 7.2% over the next five years.
But that alone isn’t enough for today’s consumers. They care as much, if not more, about the transparency of the supply chain, a Food and Beverage company’s impact on the environment, and sustainability.
Buchi and our parent company, FedUp Foods, are on a two-fold mission: to craft delicious, high-quality, nutrient-dense living drinks that enrich our customers’ lives and the environment; while also elevating foods—how they're grown, sourced, and utilized in our beverages—to a new level.
FedUp Foods is one of the leading RTD beverage manufacturers in America, offering turnkey private labeling of organic functional beverages.
We are forging the next generation of functional beverages that are not only good for you, but also contribute to a bright and fair future through sustainable manufacturing and regenerative partnerships.