The food industry is a very crafty, savvy industry that is very much aware of the food trends and hype. They label foods to appeal to consumers using trendy buzz words like “low carb”, “gluten free”, ” high protein”, “organic” and “all natural”. Now, their version and your version might be completely different stories. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to a friend or a client’s house and I have been shown some “awesome” and “healthy” snack they have bought for their family such as organic toaster pastry, granola bar or energy bars and all natural fruit snacks. They are shocked when they ask me my opinion and, never afraid to give it, I tell them that it is a processed, sugary food even though it contains some organic or “real food” ingredients. Just because something says “organic” or “all natural” does not mean it is healthy or good for you. A Cornell study looked at food labeling- this study looked at “low fat” labeling. The study found that people ate up to 45% more than people given the same snack without the label. They called this “The Halo Effect”- meaning people tended to indulge more in foods they felt were “good for them”. This Halo effect applies to the labels of “all natural”, “gluten free”, “low carb” and “high protein” as well as processed organic foods. Sugar is all natural and can be organic, but is it good for us? Sierra Mist, usually sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, came out with Sierra Mist natural. The difference is it has “natural” sugar instead of “manufactured” HFCS. It is still not “good for you”. Organic is, usually, good for you in that Organic food is grown without synthetic pesticide or chemical fertilizers, it is not irradiated or processed with industrial solvents and chemical additives. It is managed by the Organic Food Production Act from 1990. Processed organic foods contain organic ingredients as well as added sugars and salts to preserve them. Added sugar comes in the form of dextrose, maldextrose, rice syrup, molasses, honey, corn syrup, fructose, and sucrose to name a few. Many processed foods, even seemingly “healthy” like KIND bars, contain more than one sweetener. It is very important to read labels. What’s wrong with sugar? As with anything, too much is not good for your body. The American Heart Association set new recommendations for maximum daily added sugar, (sugar not found in the whole food), to be 24 g for women and 36 g for men. A natural 100% juice box has 24 g of sugar in it to put this amount recommended into perspective. Sugar is linked to inflammation, hormone imbalance, mood disturbances, heart disease and diabetes (Type II).
We all buy some processed foods or pre-packaged food for convenience. We just need to follow these simple guideline:
- Eat mostly whole foods
- Cut down sugar
- Read the labels and ingredient lists- the fewer ingredients, the better.
- Listen to your body and how it responds to certain foods (energy level, GI, Bowels, Headaches)
- Cook as often as you can, cutting down on prepared, pre-packaged foods.
Some helpful websites and resources: “What to Eat” by Marion Nettle FDA food marketing institute and Prevention Magazine’s list of 100 Cleanest Packaged Food Awards