DEBUNKED: 9 'Super Healthy' Food Labels

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Photo: Flickr – tizzie

In a world of increasing obesity and chemical processing of our foods, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on what we’re eating.But even if we look at the labels, how can we be sure we’re getting what we want? Foods that claim to be healthy are sometimes not what they seem, and companies have come under fire for falsely claiming or advertising that their product is good for you. 

If we aren’t careful, soon they’ll be calling pizza a vegetable right under our noses.

It’s good to be vigilant about what you buy. It’s even better to know what it is you’re actually buying.

What does this word mean, exactly? It has no definition nor is it regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and it doesn't pertain to food's nutritional content, ingredients, safety, or health effects.

The label must explain what makes the product natural (such as 'no added colouring '), which essentially relegates it to buzzword status.

In fact, high fructose corn syrup is considered 'natural' despite being a chemical byproduct.

Trans fats can take advantage of a common food label loophole: if food has 0.5 grams or less of a nutrient, it can be listed as zero grams on the nutrition facts label.

If 'partially hydrogenated' appears on a food label, even if it's under 0.5 grams, the serving sizes can add up and become a pretty substantial amount of trans fat.

There is no law that requires a minimum amount of real fruit or fruit juice for a product to make this claim. In essence, one drop of orange juice in a drink is enough to satisfy the quota.

One good way to check how much real fruit is used in a drink is to check the ingredients. If high fructose corn syrup is high the list, chances are the amount of actual fruit is low.

Just like 'real fruit,' whole grain food can attain the label simply by having just a pinch of whole grain thrown back into the refined grain mix.

There are many variations on the 'grain' idea, but only '100 per cent whole grain' can be considered a healthy choice. Everything else can slip by with just scant amounts of the good stuff.

Fat free gives the impression of being a healthy option, but that's not always the case. Once again, the number of calories or grams of fat per serving may be small, but it depends on how many servings in the carton/box/bottle.

Also, some products may try to trick you with a fat-free label. For example, 'fat free' orange juice is redundant -- oranges are fat free to begin with.

Despite what you might want to believe when you see the words 'free range' on your eggs -- perhaps chickens strolling unimpeded through lush countryside before delicately laying a series of eggs that you will subsequently fry -- the reality is that free range doesn't guarantee a certain amount of space to roam.

Free range chickens (poultry is the only kind of free range food in the U.S.) usually still live in small, enclosed, fenced in spaces, Their cramped conditions are better than their non-free range brethren, but it's a far cry from a quality lifestyle before their inevitable demise.

Fresh doesn't mean 'just prepared' in most situations. For example, chicken can be kept at 24 degrees (well below freezing) to keep from spoiling.

Enriched is another concept that sounds better than it actually is. The word conveys the idea of making the product better, when in fact enriching a product just makes up for lost ground.

When a food such as flour is processed, vitamins and minerals are lost. Enriching the flour adds the vitamins back in, but their whole grain counterparts are much healthier.

If you want additional vitamins and minerals in your food, the word to look for is 'fortified.'

With many food products, 'light' means that there is 50 per cent less fat or sodium, or a third of the calories. Not so with olive oil: light simply refers to the colour of the oil, which sounds healthier but just means your oil will be more translucent. And with an oft-used product like olive oil, that difference is huge.

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