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False food fact

Diet and Exercise

David Crocker

So many folks these days, try to make healthful food choices, but that might be harder than you think. Have you ever chosen one food item, over another, because of health claims on the label? You may have been hornswoggled. Many food labels can be perplexing, some misleading, and others, just downright dishonest.

Today, I like to clear some of the confusion regarding misleading phrases manufacturers assign to food labels.

  • All natural

This claim really doesn’t mean much, in fact the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t even define it. “All natural” just means the food doesn’t contain added colors, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. These food products may still contain preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and sodium. Also, with regard to some supplements, don’t believe something is safe just because it’s labeled “all natural” or “herbal”. By definition, arsenic is “all natural”, and hemlock and mistletoe are “herbal”, but all of them are poisonous.

  • Fat free

This is a very misleading allegation. When the dangers of saturated and trans fats were recognized, “fat free” food items became extremely popular. Problem is, these products sometimes hold as many calories as full fat versions. The reason? To make these foods more palatable, they contain added sugars. Always check labels for calorie content, then compare to their full fat constituents.

  • Sugar free

To be considered “sugar free”, a food product must contain no more than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving, but that’s just half the story. Sugars are just one form of carbohydrate. Just because these foods don’t have added sugars, doesn’t mean they don’t contain other carbohydrates, like starches. Remember, all carbohydrates, except fiber, are converted into glucose (sugar) by the body. Also, many “sugar free” foods have just as many calories as the original. Manufacturers will often add sugar alcohols such as mannitol, xylitol and sorbitol. These are sweeteners that have half the calories of regular sugar, but if taken in high amounts can cause diarrhea.

  • Zero trans fats

These artificial fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid, to give foods a longer shelf life. Trans fats raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower your HDL (good) cholesterol levels, increase your risk for developing cardiovascular disease and stroke. They’re also associated with higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By law, if food has no more than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving, it’s allowed to have “0 trans fats” on the label. Now that might not seem like much, but 1 gram of trans fats is considerable. Check the ingredients for the words “hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils or shortening”. If those are on the label, the product contains trans fats.

  • Free Range

The term “free Range” refers to food from animals that have access to outdoor areas, or animals who have free access to graze or forage for food. Problem is, since the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not define the term “free range”, there are no requirements for the amount, duration and quality of outdoor access. For those who purchase ethical food, know that all organically raised food is automatically “free range” (certified organic standards require this), but all food raised free range is not necessarily organic.

  • Multigrain

“Multigrain” simply means there are several kinds of grain in a product, according to the Whole Grains Council. When shopping for healthful breads and crackers, look for the words “whole wheat” or “whole grains”. Whole grains (which include popcorn, wheat, oatmeal, brown rice, rye, quinoa and barley) have more fiber and other nutrients than grains that have been refined, a process that strips away the most healthful portions of the grain.

Have question? Contact David at dwcrocker77@gmail.com.