Don’t let modern food labels and fancy packaging cloud your judgement about what you put in your body. Yes, it may say the ‘healthier option’ on the box, but is it really? God has provided us access to an abundance of knowledge, we only have to seek the truth. He says, ‘‘blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding” (Proverbs 3:13). Let’s look at understanding a few of these food labels a little better, and what they really mean.
1.Multi-grain– Not all grains are created equally. Breads that claim to be multi-grain, are just that, breads made from multiple grains. This means that it could contain refined flour mixed with whole wheat flour stripped of nutrients and fiber. You will not necessarily be able to tell the percentage of each in the bread. Instead, the Whole Grain Council encourages us to look for bread marked with the 100% whole grain stamp 1. This bread will contain the whole bran, germ and endosperm of the grain, and the first ingredient should say- you guessed it- “whole”, whether grain/ wheat/ oats ect.
Also be warned, don’t rely on the colour of the bread: some darker breads have caramel colouring and are no healthier than the refined breads!
2.No Added Sugar– Just as long as we are all clear that- it may still contain sugar. Foods such as milk, fruits, cereals, and vegetables for example contain natural sugars. The Canadian Sugar Institute reminds us that, no added sugar products may still contain other ingredients like carbohydrates-which eventually break down into sugar, which are their building blocks 2.
3.Sugar Free– While we are on the topic of sugar, let’s look at this culprit. Sugar free doesn’t necessarily mean that the food contains fewer calories than the regular version. Calories refer to how much energy your body can get from eating or drinking a certain thing. According to the Food Intolerance Diagnostic report these products often contain sugar alcohols, (Sortitol, Mannitol, Xylitol) and other ingredients such as carbohydrates which again; break down into sugar 3.
4.Trans Fat– Trans fat is a big no no. The recommended amount of this is… zero. Products that say ‘no trans fat” can actually contain 0.5grams per serving, so if you are having multiple serving of those french fries cooked in trans fat, then you might still be getting your share. Check for words on the ingredient list such as shortening and hydrogenated oils , which mean trans fat is still present. According to the FDA trans fat are so bad that by 2018 they will be banned from all US foods 4.
5.Fat Free– What does that mean any way? Fat doesn’t make you fat. Excess calories make you fat. The problem with some “fat-free” labels is that they contain almost the same amount of calories as the full fat version (Sacks F.M, 2009). So if you are trying to lose weight eating ‘fat free’ can mean little. Look at the calories 5. Also as per the FDA labeling “fat free” doesn’t have to mean 0% fat, it can also contain up to 0.5 grams of fat per serving 6.
Not only that, fat may be substituted by adding more of other ingredients such as sodium and sugar. Sneaky, sneaky.
6.Gluten Free– For those individuals who have developed a gluten intolerance or have Celiac disease, this is a great option. Gluten is a protein found in grains like rye, and wheat and can be the cause of great irritation for some people. For the rest of us there is no advantage in buying them, in fact an ABC news report interviewed Margaret Weiss the clinical manager of Kogan Celiac Center at Barnabas health in Livingston New Jersey, who says, “You have to replace the gluten with something so the majority of processed gluten-free products are held together with oil butter and eggs,” she also commented that, “they tend to be higher in fat, calories and sugar and lower in fiber vitamins and minerals.” They have no magic powers, and don’t necessarily help you lose weight. They are just gluten-free. 7
Identifying whole grains. Oldways whole grain council. Retrieved Jan 22, 2016 from, http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/identifying-whole-grain-products.
About Sugar and the role of sugar in foods. Canadian Sugar Institute. Retrieved Feb 27, 2016 from http://www.sugar.ca/Nutrition-Information-Service/Health-professionals/About-Sugar-and-Role-of-Sugar-in-Foods.aspx
Sorbitol and xylitol (poly) intolerances. Food Intolerance diagnostics. Retrieved Jan 22, 2016 from http://www.foodintolerances.org/sorbitol-food-table.aspx
FDA cuts trans fat in processed foods. FDA Consumer Health Information. Retrieved Feb 27th, 2016 from http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm372915.htm
Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, et al. Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates. The New England journal of medicine. 2009;360(9):859-873. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0804748.
Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (9. Appendix A: Definitions of Nutrient Content Claims). US food and Drug administration. Retreived Jan 22, 2016 from http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064911.htm
Gluten-Free Help With Weight Loss? Liz Neporent. Retrieved Feb 27th, 2016 from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/gluten-free-weight-loss/story?id=19476263