In today’s society, phrases like “high-fructose corn syrup”, “saturated fat” and “riboflavin” are common place in culinary conversation. In a society where figures like Michelle Obama are promoting healthy lifestyles for all, it’s time to separate health food fact from fiction.
As for the facts, one can never go wrong with produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, broccoli, pomegranates and potatoes all help regulate blood pressure, which promote healthy hearts.
Of course, those foods people commonly align with healthy eating prove their reputation.
Oatmeal, soy products and flax seeds are all rich in fiber, which helps regulate digestion. There are even those surprise foods, such as dark chocolate and coffee, which are both found to be heart-healthy.
But produce isn’t the only way to eat healthy. Packaged foods with listed natural ingredients and low amounts of sugar, sodium and fats should be a clear indication of healthy choices too. Organic foods can also indicate that the product might be healthier than a more processed choice, but keep a keen eye.
Former Vice President of Operations at Maramor Chocolates, John Pierson said, “A common misconception with organic foods, especially chocolate, is that it’s a nutritional product. There’s just as much fat in organic chocolate as in its counterpart.”
He also described tricks in advertising that leads consumers to believe a product is healthier than it is.
“Companies can put one organic ingredient into a food and call it an ‘organic product.’ Others create labels and packaging with a natural design to get a consumer to subconsciously think it’s a natural product,” Pierson said.
Other advertisements to be leery of include labels that claim to be “whole grain” or “made with whole grains” as products can be made with only one whole grain ingredient.
So how can consumers trust that a food is actually organic?
“What it really comes down to is certification. If a product has an organic certification label on it, it’s a trustworthy product,” Pierson added.
The nutrition facts chart located on the back of most packaged foods is a great indicator of how healthy the product is, but it is important to remember the FDA doesn’t require companies to include ingredients if under a certain value.
Health teacher Mary Kloepfer teaches her students how to read nutrition labels and what to look out for. “Products can be considered a ‘light’ version if they contain 50 percent less fat or 1/3 fewer calories. A product can be considered an ‘excellent source’ if it contains 20 percent or more of the Daily Value” She said.
“Keep in mind that foods can claim to be fat “free” and/or sugar ‘free’ but still contain up to 1/2 gram of fat/sugar per serving,” Kloepfer added.
Remember to look for the nutrition facts on the side of your foods instead of falling for catchy and colorful advertising that can give false health claims, most importantly, as Kloepfer cautions “If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, don’t eat it.”