6 Things You Need to Know about Food Labels
Look on the nutrition panel under sugar. 1 teaspoon of sugar is 4g, so if the product says it has 20g of sugar; it has five teaspoons of added sugar. The World Health Organisation recommends that adults eat no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day.
99% fat free is healthy right?
No, natural fat is not bad for you, in fact it has health benefits, it also make food taste good and allows you to feel full. Removing the fat from natural foods like yoghurt and milk is a bad idea. You need the fat to absorb fat soluble vitamins like vitamin D and get calcium into your bones. When fat is removed, the product will taste terrible so it will be replaced with sugar or artificial sweeteners which will stop you from feeling full, cause you to have sweet cravings and have the potential to cause many health issues.
It contains vitamins and minerals; surely that’s a good thing?
Only if it is a real food that contains those nutrients naturally (eg fruit, fish or eggs). If it is a cereal or other packaged product it just means that synthetic vitamins or minerals that can’t be absorbed well have been added to an otherwise highly refined product devoid of nutrients. They rarely of any benefit to your health. This is called “health washing” it is when the marketing companies distract you from how awful the food is by making health claims on the packaging! Vitamins and minerals in real foods come with all of the required co-factors to allow you to absorb and utilise them easily (nature has its own special way of delivering nutrients that a factory can’t compete with).
The more the packaging tries to convince you of how healthy it is – the more suspicious you should be! Always read the ingredients, you will be horrified.
How do I understand the ingredients list?
Ingredients are listed in order of what the food contains most of, so if within the first 5 ingredients listed you see words like glucose, sugar, corn syrup, fruit syrup or fructose – you know that the biggest ingredients in that product are sugar – put it back on the shelf now! If you need to have lessons in how to understand what the ingredients are, if you need a biochemistry degree to understand the ingredients, that is not food and your body will not thank you for eating it!
It’s all natural, that’s good right?
Well that depends, if it is a piece of fruit or a vegetable the answer is yes. If it comes in a packet and a marketing company has been hired to make it look natural by calling it “all natural” or putting a picture of a farm on the front, it is likely a long way from natural! Again this is health washing, there is no standard for what natural means and marketers know that word makes you feel good about buying their products. A bag of snakes or jellies might be “natural” but so is a bowl of sugar, would you sit and eat that or give that to your small children to eat, no!
Real foods don’t need labels; ensure that is what you eat most of the time!
Fiona Kane, Nutritionist, Informed Health Nutritional Wellbeing Centre