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By: Emily Murray

FOOD INGREDIENTS AND FUNCTIONFood Ingredients and Function

When you closely follow the recipe for some of your favorite dishes have you ever stopped to actually think what role they play in the finished products? It seems like a magic trick of sorts. You add a bit of this and a dash of that and there you have it, a tasty dish for the family. Once you have a greater understanding of these functional ingredients, you will have a better handle on what it takes to make your own recipe or add to some of your favorites. Here is a look at four of the most common functional foods which are used for cooking.

Baking Soda

Most people may only buy baking soda for its most well known function – a deodorizer for the refrigerator. Yet, it is a common ingredient for baking. Baking soda acts as a base and the reaction it has with other ingredients is the key function of baking soda in many recipes. As a base, it reacts with acidic ingredients in the baked good (most commonly cake) and then begins to bubble. This in turn helps the cake to rise.


Like anyone who has ever fudged a recipe by adding more than the suggested amount of salt knows there seems to be a fine line between “just enough” and “way too much.” For many recipes which require salt, the key is to not taste it at all. So why is it even there? Most commonly in baking, salt is one of the functional ingredients used to enhance the flavor of other ingredients. The sweetness is also offset nicely by the salt as well.


Depending on the recipe, eggs can play many different roles. In some it may be color, in others flavor, nutrition, coagulation or the actual bonding of other functional ingredients to one another. Adding moisture is perhaps the most common function that egg plays in many different recipes and is a staple of many common baked goods. In this case, it is much like salt in the fact that its main function is typical something other than taste.


Sugar is not only used as a sweetener in many recipes, it also plays an integral role as a functional food. When used in a recipe with egg whites (like a meringue) it stabilizes the egg to keep its volume during the baking process which results in a “crunchy” type effect.

Functional foods and functional ingredients are things we use each day. While many of us simply add them to the mix without a second thought, understanding the specific functions of ingredients allows a cooking enthusiast to be a creative one.


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