Functional Ingredients From Brassicaceae Species: Overview and Perspectives

Functional Ingredients From Brassicaceae Species: Overview and Perspectives

Title: Functional Ingredients From Brassicaceae Species: Overview and Perspectives

Authors: Daniela Ramirez¹ ², Angel Abellán-Victorio³, Vanesa Beretta¹, Alejandra Camargo¹ ², Diego A Moreno³

  1. Laboratorio de Cromatografía para Agroalimentos, Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias, UNCuyo, Mendoza 54 261, Argentina
  2. Instituto de Biología Agrícola de Mendoza, CONICET Mendoza 54 261, Argentina 
  3. Phytochemistry and Healthy Foods Laboratory, Department of Food Science and Technology, Spanish National Research Council for Scientific Research (CEBAS-CSIC), Murcia 30100, Spain

Published: 2020 Mar 15

Read or download the PDF: 

Abstract: Brassicaceae vegetables are important crops consumed worldwide due to their unique flavor, and for their broadly recognized functional properties, which are directly related to their phytochemical composition. Isothiocyanates (ITC) are the most characteristic compounds, considered responsible for their pungent taste. Besides ITC, these vegetables are also rich in carotenoids, phenolics, minerals, and vitamins. Consequently, Brassica's phytochemical profile makes them an ideal natural source for improving the nutritional quality of manufactured foods. In this sense, the inclusion of functional ingredients into food matrices are of growing interest. In the present work, Brassicaceae ingredients, functionality, and future perspectives are reviewed.


1. Brassicaceae Family: A Rich Mine of Bioactive Phytochemicals

Brassicaceae family vegetables have an ample worldwide distribution, which can be found in all continents except Antarctica.One of the most striking features of this botanical family is the presence of several kinds of secondary metabolites with a distinctive taste, and also interesting bioactivities. The most deeply studied are the glucosinolates (GSL) and their breakdown products, isothiocyanates and indoles. Moreover, these species are also rich and possess unique profiles of phenolic compounds, carotenoids, and other groups of less studied compounds such as phytoalexins, terpenes, phytosteroids, and tocopherols, here reviewed.


2. Functional” Foods Based on Brassicas: Concepts and Relevance for Development of New Products

2.1. Origin of the “Functional Food” Concept

The origin of the concept of functional food dates to 1980 with the introduction of the concept “FOSHU” (Foods for Specified Human Health) in Japan. This tag system pretended, for first time in the world, to regulate the employment of health claims in the market. From this point, the regulation of functional foods has been in constant evolution in Europe by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), in the USA by the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), or in Canada by the CFIA (Health Canada’s Food Directorate and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency), among others. Nowadays, different unofficial definitions and concepts of functional foods coexist, being dependent of diverse factors: the country of the origin, in the case of a food product; the main characteristics of the manufacturing and the main use of this product; the specific criteria of an author, in the case of an article. In this sense, a global definition can be outlined, based on specific definitions collected in recent literature: A functional food must have a nutritional function that contributes to nutritional benefit on the consumer health, besides have been subjected to a technological process, in order to add a beneficial ingredient or eliminate a harmful one. In addition, it is interesting to mention the concept “nutraceutical” (classified by the European Union like “dietary supplement), a kind of functional product with a specific format similar to medicines (e.g., pills, tablets), like. However, it would be a priority to clarify the limit between medicine and functional foods or nutraceuticals: it is possible to establish a mandatory common characteristic, and, without discussion, that is the preventive and non-resolving nature of functional foods against different diseases.

In general terms and due to the information exposed, it is feasible to establish the next division of this group of products:

  • Functional foods with an added (or enhanced) ingredient that is associated with a health benefit. Example: milk chocolate enriched with kale.
  • Functional foods without an ingredient (naturally present in the original product) with a health risk associated. Example: reduced fat/cholesterol mayonnaise. Nutraceuticals example: microencapsulation of polyphenols extracted from red chicory and red cabbage.
3. Functionality: What Has Been Demonstrated and What Remains to Be Study

The development of functional foods or functional ingredients is possible thanks to the interaction of three actors: (1) consumers demanding healthy foods, (2) the industrial sector motivated to elaborate and labelling their food products with a functional claim, and (3) the scientific sector which is responsible to obtain the knowledge to support those claims. Scientific substantiations of claims are performed by taking into account the totality of the available pertinent scientific data and by weighing up the evidence. To support these claims, scientific evidence on functional assessment procedures is needed, as well as toxicological evaluations and standardize analytical methodologies for functional component quantification. The European Commission Regalement indicates a ranking of tests that can be done to support health statements of certain products. These tests consider, among others, whether a specific effect attributed to the product is representative in a target population, and if the quantity of the food and pattern of consumption required to obtain the claimed effect could reasonably be achieved as part of a balanced diet. In order of decreasing preference, the "most reliable" would be the products that would have demonstrated their benefits in experimental trials in humans. For that reason, among all the available information on the functional properties of Brassicaceae, we consider in the first instance, those that involve the results of epidemiological studies. A bibliographic search was made with the keys “epidemiology” + “Brassicaceae” + “functional property” in the last ten years. It follows that from the spectrum of functional properties attributed to this botanical family, biological properties related to chemoprevention of cancer are the most evaluated (40%), followed very far by properties related to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases (6.6%) and antidiabetics (5.7%). These results allow us, a priori, to warn of the areas in which there is a shortage of epidemiological data.


4. Food Products and Ingredients Enriched in Bioactives from Brassicaceae

The functional food market based on Brassicaceae vegetables is relatively recent. However, it contains interesting potential to offer new food products and formats with beneficial effects on health. In this sense, consumers, especially young adults and children, show some adversity in relation to the organoleptic characteristics, like the flavor of many cruciferous such as broccoli or radish. For this reason, diverse new products based on functional ingredients from cruciferous families have been developed to facilitate the inclusion of this group of nutrients to the diet, into different and original formats (e.g., smoothies, soups, breads). In this way, the manufacturing of these new food products can include the use of by-products, or side-streams, to also reach a better environmental and socio-economic balance. In addition, diverse nutraceuticals like broccoli pills, tablets, or powders have been commercialized to compensate for the absence of this group of vegetables in the diet.


5. Food Products and Ingredients from Brassica spp.—Certain Commercialization Aspects

It is true that certain functional foods result in interesting physiological effects, but it is necessary to stress that the novel developed “functional food” products cannot replace the nutritive qualities of fresh food. Nevertheless, numerous food products are commercialized as “alternatives” for the consumption of Brassica vegetables, such as vegetable powdered formulas (broccoli or kale powder in convenient but expensive formats (200 g >10 EUR/unit). We can ask ourselves if these are really necessary products, considering these prices. One kg of fresh broccoli (heads) is between EUR 1–2 in the supermarket, the sample place where these other products are sold in different shelves or areas of the store to highlight these added-value products. Besides the price tag, the effects of industrial processing to obtain the products (e.g., powders) could degrade the phytochemical profile (and the label of these products sometimes is difficult to understand for the consumers) and the composition on the marketed products may be far distant from the natural content of the fresh produce for a given bioactive, and therefore, much less effective.


For more journal articles & inspiration check out the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.