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Healthy Life and Active Ageing — The Contribution of Functional Food Ingredients

Amelia P. Rauter Mary J. Garson Francesco Nicotra

1We are what we eat

Diet has a tremendous impact in healthy life and active ageing. This is a well-known concept, but how is chemistry involved? We eat “molecules and salts”! Well combined, of course, to generate appetizing recipes. Molecules and salts are in fact what our body needs for growth and functions. Any unbalance of the required molecules and salts compromise our welfare and can also lead to serious diseases. Consider for example the scurvy, due to the absence of vitamin C in the diet.

Nowadays there is a strong interest in balanced diets, “functional food”, food additives, healthy ingredients such as “omega-3” or antioxidants. How to rationalise and avoid errors? What is the role of science in this context? Chemical science must clarify, provide a rational, generate knowledge that can provide to the dieticians guidelines for dietary instructions.

IUPAC funded a project that generated the website NUTRIAEGING (http://nutriageing.fc.ul.pt/) providing chemical information and rational on the diet. The platform also educates on the valorisation of active ingredients for disease prevention. A chemistry-based rational is given by the international panel of experts in food and natural product chemistry. The project involved also young researchers to illustrate methodologies for the identification of active ingredients in functional foods/nutraceuticals, exemplifying the role of chemistry with simple experiments.


Photo by Dose Juice on Unsplash

2NUTRIAEGING site structure

The website is structured around the following themes:

  • The chemistry of a healthy eating: Active ingredients – choose what you eat; cook for your health; commit to healthy eating
  • Cooking Recipes: Textual descriptions, food preparing videos. An internationally recognized Chef will contribute with healthy recipes and e-learning modules (videos).
  • Share your experience: A moderated web log with the aim to encourage the general public to participate with thoughts, opinions and experiences and ask questions in a public discussion environment.


Educational videos / e-learning modules have been produced, including:

  • Cooking healthy recipes
  • The chemistry of the healthy ingredients, their benefits
  • Round-table discussion with the Chef, experts in chemistry and young researchers
  • Experiments illustrated by young researchers (e.g. chromatographic plates identifying active ingredients, others)

Modules for health promotion are focused on the following topics: Functional foods and ingredients; Antioxidants; Vitamins; Functional lipids; Cooking with condiments; Good and bad metals in food; Combining foods, benefits and problems.

This NUTRIAGEING website is a new platform for the transfer of scientific knowledge into usable person-centred advice. This informative website has a clean, easy-to-use, “app-like” interface with minimal menus or other clutter. The responsive layout ensures device-independent accessibility and a good viewing experience to the user, automatically adjusting to fit the screen of a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet or a mobile phone, either horizontally or vertically oriented.

NUTRIAGEING website offers modules to promote healthier nutrition, showing the benefits of food chemistry for health, educating people on how to improve eating habits and how to grow vegetables and condiments, showing their added value due to their chemical active principles. It is structured around three major themes: Healthy eating (1), Recipes and videos (2), and Vegetable gardens (3).

3Healthy eating

The “Healthy eating” section, developed by chemists, biochemists and nutritionists, is mainly focused on nutrition literacy, supported by chemical and biochemical science, containing information on healthy eating habits, clinical nutrition, understanding nutritional labelling and an enjoy subsection with puzzles and quizzes, for entertainment and at the same time allowing the user to confirm the knowledge acquired by consulting the other subsections.

For example, the section “What you should know” provides essential nutritional education:

4Nutritional labelling

The section “Nutritional labelling” will guide us in our diet, based on the contents of the different diet components.

5Get in the kitchen

Chef Hélio Loureiro

The NUTRIAGEING website describes balanced recipes and nutritious food contribute to maintain good health, improve cognitive function, increase energy levels and prevent frailty. Original recipes (for 4 servings) were especially developed by the Chef Hélio Loureiro and are featured in some videos.



6Watch it grow

Finally, a couple of projects for an everyday private garden of a nursing home, with a lawn area and surrounding flowerbeds, are proposed.

The idea here is to use the flowerbeds that are currently without any kind of plants and use them to create an aromatic and a vegetable garden.

The goals for this intervention is for the people that live there can watch the development of the plants and then see its fruits at the table and enjoy them.



  1. Healthy Life and Active Ageing -- the Contribution of Functional Food Ingredients, IUPAC Project - https://iupac.org/project/2013-054-2-300
  2. Combining Chemistry, Cooking, and Agriculture. Chemistry International (2017), 39(2), pp. 24-25 - https://doi.org/10.1515/ci-2017-0215
  3. NUTRIAGEING, the website - http://nutriageing.fc.ul.pt/index.html


Rauter, A.P, Garson M.J., and Nicotra, F. (2 October 2019) "Healthy Life and Active Ageing — The Contribution of Functional Food Ingredients" IUPAC 100 Stories. Retrieved from https://iupac.org/100/stories/functional-food-ingredients/. (Accessed: day month year)

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