As a health conscious consumer, understanding food labels is an extremely important aspect in relation to leading a healthy and fit lifestyle, especially in the understanding of the differences between advertising and marketing ploys and actual nutritional value and content.
With so many foods being mass produced and processed at large factories throughout the world it is no wonder that so many individuals are nutritionally deficient. The human body requires the continual intake of well balanced whole foods that are that are high in nutritional value to optimally perform, function, and ward off disease. As more and more of our food supply is mass produced using additives and preservatives, consuming all natural foods that are nutrient rich becomes more difficult. Below is a list of four of the most pervasive food label fallacies.
Common Food Label Fallacies to be Aware of
Made with Whole Grains
Whole grain products include cereals, breads, and pastas that are comprised of 100% whole grain and do not contain any processed white flour. Whole grain is derived from the whole kernel of grain. More specifically, whole grain is manufactured from both the inner part of the grain and the outer covering of the grain.
On the other hand, processed flours remove, and do not use, the outer covering of the grain. The end result processed flours produce a lighter texture and taste in baked products but are absent of high levels of nutrition and fiber. Enriched pastas, breads, and cereals are a blend between the two extremes (whole grain and processed) and include some nutrients.
Just because a product is made with whole grains does not mean that it consists solely of whole grains. In many cases, a product that advertises itself as being “whole wheat” or “made with whole grains” may actually contain mostly unbleached wheat flour, the same ingredients you will find in white bread. For this reason, be sure to read the full ingredient list and make sure that the whole grains are listed at the top.
Made with Real Fruit
Common food types displaying this type of label include gummy snacks, fruit cocktails, fruit juice concentrates, and other sweet treats. There is no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) law that defines the percentage of real fruit that must be present in a product in order for the manufacturer to make the claim that their product is made using real fruit. In other words, if a manufacturer uses one strawberry or one drop of real strawberry juice in their product they can state that their product is made with real fruit or fruit juice.
Always read the product label and if the first or second ingredient listed is high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar then in all likelihood the product will not contain enough fruit to be of any nutritional value. for this reason, always check the product label carefully to determine what percentage of the product is made from real fruit.
Zero Grams of Trans Fat
Virtually every fast food chain in the world, along with a slew of “junk food” manufacturers, have adopted the “no trans fat” or “zero trans fat” statement as their new mantra. When viewing a food label that states that the product contains zero grams of trans fat it is important to understand that the statement may not be true. Current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines allow food manufacturers to state that their product contains zero grams of trans fat as long as the value of trans fat is less than 0.5 grams per serving.
The American Health Association (AHA) recommends that individuals limit their total daily intake of trans fat to less than 2 grams per day. This being said, if an individual unknowingly consumes 0.49 grams of trans fat across 3 meals (i.e. breakfast, lunch, and dinner) their total consumption of trans fat would be approximately 1.5 grams. As is evident, exceeding the level of 2.0 grams of trans fat per day is not difficult to achieve.
Since their is a loophole in the rules for properly labeling the actual amount of trans fat per serving it is important to thoroughly read the food label. When reading the food label look for the following key words: hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated, and shortening.
The general term free range implies that the animals are allowed to roam freely and without any form of constraint. In general, this definition is applicable and applies to livestock farmers outside the United States. However, within the United States, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports regulations that apply only to poultry. The definition of free range, when applied to poultry, states that the animals have been allowed access outdoors.
However, the USDA regulations do not define the conditions or size of the outside area and do not define the amount of time that the animal must be allowed access to the outside. When applied to eggs, the term has no legal meaning whatsoever. This being said, individuals that want to ensure that they are truly consuming free range livestock will need to raise the animals themselves.
While it is true that the state and federal agencies have a responsibility to ensure that are food supply is safe for consumption, it is each of our responsibilities to ensure that we are choosing foods to consume that are nutritionally rich, well balanced, high in nutritional content, and derived from whole food sources.
For this reason, understanding food labels is important. By doing so, you will ensure that you are providing your body with the nutrients required to perform at an optimum level, fight disease, and live a long and healthy life.