Organic, light, multigrain, reduced fat, all natural, no added sugar. With all the food labels on our grocery store shelves, it can be quite difficult to make healthy choices when it comes what we put into our shopping cart! You are not alone in this confusion; according to a Nielsen survey 59% of consumers have difficulty interpreting food labels. This year, in Europe, significant changes are being made to the way foods will be labeled. Nutrition facts will be displayed on the front of food packages and identified with a “red light, yellow light, green light approach”; red will indicate that something is unhealthy, yellow will indicate that something is moderately unhealthy, green will indicate something is healthy. Below is a list of the most misleading food labels on our grocery store shelves.
- “All Natural” – The FDA has not defined the label “all natural”. It usually means that the product doesn’t contain artificial color, artificial flavors, and synthetic ingredients. The term “all natural” can be easily manipulated by food manufacturers. For example, some food manufacturers argue that High Fructose Corn Syrup is “all natural” because it is derived from corn.
- “Multigrain” – Products labeled “multigrain” are highly processed, most nutritional value is lost through processing. Many of our grains, in the US, have been genetically manipulated through hybridization. As a general rule, I try to stick to ancient grains. There are several companies that make great products using ancient grains. One of my favorites is Jovial Foods, they make cookies, pasta, and flour.
- “No Sugar Added” – If you are trying to cut back on carbs, items with this label might be appealing. These products can still be high in natural sugars and could be sweetened with maltodextrin (a form of MSG). Below is a label for “no sugar added” Juicy Juice Apple Juice; no sugar added, but 26 grams of sugar per serving!
- “Sugar Free” – Products labeled “sugar free” must have less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving. These products are typically sweetened with neurotoxic artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.
- “Zero Trans Fat” – Trans-fats are fats that have a hydrogen atom added to prevent the product from breaking down on the shelves (or in our bodies, for that matter). Trans fats in foods are like “BIG SUV’s trying to park into ‘compact’ parking spaces of our cells that are reserved for healthy Omega-3 fats (DHA). When this happens, our neurotransmitters responsible for focus, mood and memory have a hard time finding and recognizing their receptors due to the inflammation of the membranes on the brain cells caused by the consumption of trans-fats.” Currently, the FDA does not require trans-fats to be listed on nutrition labels, if the product contains less than 0.5 g of trans-fats per serving. If you are really serious about keeping all unhealthy trans-fats out of your diet, be sure to check the ingredients list for “hydrogenated oils” and/or “partially hydrogenated oils”. These ingredients are actually trans-fats.
- “Free Range” – The terms “free-range”, “free-roaming”, and “cage-free” are not currently regulated by the government. “Free-roaming” and “cage-free” chickens live a cage-free life and are allowed to roam freely, as long as it is within the four walls of their barn. “Free-range” chickens live in slightly better conditions; they are allowed to leave the barn, but many times the areas they have access to usually are dirt-surfaced or concrete-surfaced areas. The term “pastured” means that the eggs came from chickens that are cage-free in a grassy pasture. Eggs from pastured chickens are generally more nutritious since the diet of the chickens includes bugs and earthworms.
- “Fat-free” – When food manufacturers remove all the fat from a product, that product becomes unpalatable. Oftentimes, food manufacturers add flavor back into the product using harmful ingredients such as monosodium glutamate (MSG). These products can also be loaded with sugar, which is easily stored in the body as fat.
- “Gluten-free” – Unless you are a celiac or have gluten intolerance, there is no real benefit of eating gluten-free products. Many people associate gluten-free diets with weight loss. A study at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center showed that 81% of people on a gluten-free diet gain weight and more than 40% of those on a gluten-free diet are overweight. According to blogger Diana Herrington at care2 make a difference, there are several drawbacks associated with gluten-free products:
- They contain too little fiber.
- They contain too many carbs.
- Gluten-free products are expensive; on average 242% more than products containing gluten.
- They contain a lot of bad carbs that cause digestive issues and have a high glycemic index. These carbs also don’t usually contain many nutrients.
- They contain too many calories; almost TWICE as much calories as their counterparts.
- They lack important nutrients such as iron, calcium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate.
- They often contain xanthan gum that is derived from corn, soy or wheat. Corn and soy are the most genetically modified crops in the United States.
- They contain many unhealthy sugars.
- “Organic” – “Organic” – If a product is labeled “organic”, it contains at least 95% organic ingredients; the remaining 5% can be non-organic. If a product is labeled “made with organic ingredients”, it contains at least 70% organic ingredients, the remaining 30% can be non-organic. Be sure to check the food labels to find out what non-organic ingredients the product contains! To be organic, it must say 100% organic.
- “Fat-free or low-fat milk” – There are several dangers associated with eating low-fat or fat-free milk (for tips on choosing the healthiest milk, see my article HERE)
“A study at Harvard found that women who ate two or more servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy per day, like skim milk or yogurt, had 85% higher risk of infertility than those that ate full-fat dairy products.”
-Chris Kresser“Low fat milk causes weight gain. This is how farmers fatten pigs. If they give them whole milk, the pigs stay lean. Low fat milk is missing all the vitamins that you get in the fat. The industry has figured out that they make a lot more money on butter and butterfat if they put it in ice cream. So they take the cream out of the milk, put it into ice cream. They would much rather you spend the money on ice cream, than on butter or buttercream; they make a lot more money.”
-Sally Fallon, Weston A. Price Foundation“A note on the production of skim milk powder: liquid milk is forced through a tiny hole at high pressure, and then blown out into the air. This causes a lot of nitrates to form and the cholesterol in the milk is oxidized. Those of you who are familiar with my work know that cholesterol is your best friend; you don’t have to worry about natural cholesterol in your food; however, you do not want to eat oxidized cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, to atherosclerosis. So when you drink reduced-fat milk thinking that it will help you avoid heart disease, you are actually consuming oxidized cholesterol, which initiates the process of heart disease.”
-Weston A. Price Foundation, Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry“Let us get rid of one fallacy which is that skim milk is actually milk that has had the cream skimmed off the top. That actually sounds logical but it is not how is done, at least not in this modern world. That process would not remove all the cream so what is done in modern processing is the milk is spun around with centrifuges, eventually completely separating the cream (fat) and milk. It is first clarified, then separated, then pasteurized (or ultra-pasteurized), and then finally homogenized. This over-processing has now removed every healthy vitamin, living enzyme, and natural mineral. Welcome to your now-dead beverage……Skim milk will not support life. So by removing the cream you have essentially turned the milk into something completely useless, especially the pasteurized variety as you have not only removed the healthy fat but you have also as stated removed the living nutrients.”
-Raw Milk Truth“Researchers from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute conducted a study that monitored the dietary habits of more than 20,000 Swedish women for a decade. It turned out that women who consumed full fat milk or cheese had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than the rest of the group. The results were convincing enough for the researchers to recommend that a glass of full fat milk every day will cut weight gain by 15%, and a portion of full fat cheese each day will cut weight gain by 30%. Alicja Wolk, professor at the Karolinska Institute stated, ‘The surprising conclusion was that increased consumption of (full fat) cheese meant that overweight women lost weight.’
Yet skim and 1% milk is pervasive in school lunch programs, and throughout the American diet. If you summarize the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid you see an emphasis on grains plus skim milk, the very combination that fattens hogs so efficiently! In fact, the USDA recommends we start the low-fat habit early: children as young as pre-school are recommended to consume non-fat or low fat milk, yogurt and cheese. With a food pyramid like this it’s little wonder we face an obesity epidemic from childhood onward.”
-Ann M Childers, MD. Life Balance Northwest
“Guess what they feed a pig if they want to make it as fat as possible as fast as possible?
Low-fat milk, because if they give the pig milk with fat in it, the pig gets satiated. It’s satisfied and won’t eat any more. But if they give it low-fat milk, it will eat the grain they feed it forever because it’ll have a deficiency of fat.
Now think of what we’re eating for breakfast in this country…
If you don’t want to get fat you’re told to drink low-fat milk, and corn or wheat or oat-based cereal.
It’s the prescription to make you as fat as possible as quickly as you can get there. You’ll never stop wanting to eat because you’re never getting any food that causes satiation.
Americans are told to eat a diet that is scientifically designed to make you as fat as possible as fast as possible.”
-Dr. Al Sears, MD. Power for Healthy Living
- “Contains no MSG” – Currently, the FDA regulations state that an ingredient can contain up to 98% MSG before the ingredients have to state that the product contains MSG. There may be autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed protein, natural flavoring, carrageenan, sodium caseinate, maltodextrin, and numerous other ingredients that contain or create processed free glutamic acid (MSG) during the manufacturing process. You can get a complete list of aliases for MSG HERE.
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