Spread the Word on Functional Foods this Heart Month

Spread the Word on Functional Foods this Heart Month

February 1, 2017
Guest Columnist

By Lainey Younkin, MS, RD and Sam Teece, MPH, RD

Twenty-eight percent of grocery store shoppers identify “heart healthy” as a claim that they look for in purchase decisions (1). However, people want more. Twenty-six percent of shoppers seek food products that have some nutritional enhancement, or function (1). People are looking for functional foods - foods that provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition.

Functional foods are scattered throughout the grocery store, and most need to be sought out by educated shoppers, rather than purchased by the majority as staple kitchen items. Imagine if those frequently-used ingredients provided health benefits beyond basic nutrition, and the idea of having functional foods reappearing on the grocery list week after week was no longer only for the health-conscious shopper, but for everyone. In the majority of U.S. refrigerators, there is a tub of margarine or a stick of butter - staple kitchen items. This February for Heart Health Month, why not take your shoppers on a journey down the spreads aisle?

While there are many spreads to choose from, one is a functional food with heart benefits: Benecol® Buttery Spreads. Benecol® Buttery Spreads are made with plant stanols, which have been proven to lower cholesterol in over 70 peer-reviewed clinical studies. Plant stanols partially block cholesterol from being absorbed into the bloodstream, reducing serum LDL cholesterol while not disrupting beneficial HDL cholesterol (2). The FDA claim supports that two grams of plant stanols per day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering cholesterol (2). Four tablespoons of Benecol® Buttery Spreads provides two grams of cholesterol-lowering plant stanols. For more information on plant stanols, click here.

Along with educating consumers about the benefits of functional foods comes the discussion of how these foods can be incorporated into the daily diet. Most consumers only use spreads for toast, English muffins, or bagels. As the Retail Dietitian and nutrition expert, you are in a position to teach shoppers that you can also cook and bake with spreads. The majority of shoppers are unaware or uncomfortable doing so; they venture towards oil and butter out of habit. Educating shoppers on the many uses of spreads will increase purchasing and consumption of spreads. Choosing Benecol® Buttery Spreads will also increase shoppers’ consumption of functional foods.

Ideas for Heart-Health Month

  • Educate shoppers on the benefits of functional foods and cholesterol-lowering plant stanols.
  • Guide shoppers to the spreads aisle and debunk the myth that spreads are only good for spreading - introduce the idea of cooking and baking with spreads!
  • Conduct a food demo cooking or baking with spreads. Visit www.benecolusa.com for Benecol® Buttery Spreads recipe ideas.
  • Discuss functional foods with your store pharmacist. Benecol® Buttery Spreads have an

additional cholesterol-lowering effect even if someone is on medication.

For more information on Benecol® Spreads, as well as recipes, visit http://www.benecolusa.com or connect with Benecol’s Dietitan Team.


  1. Food Marketing Institute. US Grocery Shopping Trends 2016. Available at http://www.fmi.org/research-resources/u-s-grocery-shopper-trends.
  2. Food Labeling; Health Claims: Phytosterols and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease. 75 Fed. Reg. 235 (December 8, 2010).