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More false food claims

David Crocker

Diet & Exercise

Last week we learned how some manufactures attach misleading labels to food products, in an attempt to persuade folks their brand is the most healthful. Let’s continue the list…

• Organic means healthful: The term “organic” is considered by many to be more responsible on most labels, because any food defined as such must hold at least 95% organic sources free of synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides. However, “organic” does not make unhealthy foods healthful. Products like ice cream, cookies, mac and cheese and sodas might not contain artificial colors, or preservatives, but they’re still full of sugars, fats and calories.

• Good source of fiber: To put this on the label, the Code of Federal Regulations only requires a food product contain 10% of the recommended daily value of fiber. That’s not much, and does not compensate for the added sugars, and sodium present in some of these food items.

• Made with real fruit: Many products that claim to be made with real fruit may not contain very much fruit at all. While companies must list the measure of nutrients they contain, such as fat and cholesterol, they do not have to disclose the actual percentage of ingredients, including fruit. That means the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows foods that have even a tiny portion of fruit, or even fruit juice concentrate to list they’re “made with real fruit”. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has urged the (FDA) to review the “made with real fruit” claims.

• Light: A food label may assert an item, such as olive oil, is light, but “light” or “extra light” refers to the color, and flavor of the olive oil, not its calorie content. Olive oil is considered a heart-healthy fat, because of its high monounsaturated fat allowance, making it a good choice to use in cooking and dressings. However, most all olive oil contains 14 grams of fat per tablespoon, yielding 120 calories.

• Two percent milk: Reduced fat milk seems like a good idea, but what does “two percent” actually mean? Some folks think one percent, or two percent means that all but 1% or 2% of the fat has been removed. Not true! It refers to what the percentage of total weight is milk fat. By the way, whole milk averages only 3.25 percent by weight. If you’re drinking milk, I recommend milk with at least some fat, because fat slows digestion, which helps prevent spikes in blood sugar.

• High protein: Proteins are essential nutrients found in every cell of the human body. Protein is needed for cellular repair, and is essential for the production of enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. “High protein” on a label, simply means if the whole food product source does not naturally provide protein from whole foods, like eggs, meat, and dairy, then it’s been loaded with protein concentrate. Most common protein concentrate sources added, include whey, soy, and concentrated gluten. These standards of protein are hard on the digestive system, not well absorbed, and should not replace protein sourced from whole foods.

Food label regulations are complicated, making it harder for consumers to understand them. I advocate studying ingredient lists. Product ingredients are listed by quantity, in descending order, by weight, from highest to lowest amount. This means when the food item was manufactured, the first ingredient listed, was dispensed in the largest amount, and the last ingredient listed, contributed the least. I recommend considering products that present whole foods as their first three ingredients and be suspicious of foods with long lists of ingredients.

Another suggestion is to completely ignore assertions on the front of packaging. Research shows that adding health claims to front labels makes folks deem a product healthier than the same product that doesn’t list health claims.

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