Trying to keep above the array of contradictory health claims we are bombarded with daily is hard enough as it is. The lack of comprehensive information available to customers renders us increasingly helpless when faced with the decision of what to buy, and what to eat. Try as we might to do the right thing, we are led astray by the misleading messages on food packaging, which is too often clever marketing posing as helpful nutritional information. Here are some of the most common culprits:
1. LOW/NO FAT:
The low-fat trend has surely passed its expiration date, and yet there are still many who, having had the ‘eating fat makes you fat’ lie drilled into them for far too long, will reach for the low-fat product every time. We now know that natural, whole, saturated fats are a crucial part of a healthy diet, and are indeed beneficial to weight loss, digestion and nutritional balance when compared to the empty calories offered by processed carbohydrates.
The best thing we can do for our bodies is eat our food as close to its natural source as possible. Products with the fat removed are naturally more highly processed and are often laden with salt and preservatives. Furthermore, when fat is removed, it is replaced by sugar by the manufacturer 9 times out of 10. With the average American eating 158 pounds of sugar per year, there is no doubt that the low-fat route is a dangerous one. Avoid over-processed, sugar-laden tricks and go for the whole food, every time.
For those of us who have managed to single out sugar as the culprit, sugar-free labels can be equally misleading. Aspartame and Saccharin, for example, are two compounds used in sugar-free products that are proven to increase appetite and cravings for sweet things. They are dangerous chemicals often linked to headaches, weight gain and thyroid problems, and exercise the glutamate gland in the brain so much that it has been observed to cause cell death in the brain.
3. NATURAL SWEETENERS:
Ethanol is a naturally occurring thing that is not good for us, and keeping this example in mind reminds us that ‘natural’ does not necessarily mean ‘beneficial.’ Products containing ‘natural sweeteners’ often contain Sucralose, which is a sugar molecule that has been treated with chlorine so as so avoid being absorbed as a calorie. Sure, you skip the calorie, but you still absorb the chlorine. Raw honey, containing enzymes, minerals and anti-bacterials, stevia, xylitol and coconut sugar are the kinds of natural and healthy sweeteners you should be looking for.
There are no official criteria required to apply the all-natural label. As such, products labeled ‘all-natural’ can still contain plenty of preservatives such as MSG, maltodextrin, hydrolyzed vegetable or plant protein, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, fractionated oils, nitrites, sulfates, dyes and food coloring.
5. WHOLE GRAIN
This label states that the whole grain is used, but doesn’t specify which grain. Whole-grain foods can be entirely comprised of wheat and corn, which are two of the five most common food allergens/irritants. They are often genetically modified and are highly inflammatory in most people. Whole grains of brown rice, kamut, spelt, quinoa and other ancient whole grains, however, are the kinds of things we want to see on the ingredients list.