Unhealthy Assumptions, How to Read a Food Label Part 2 / HEALTH 027

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By Spartan Race, Joe De Sena CEO, and Founder Spartan Race. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Imagine you’re in a supermarket and you want something healthy to drink, but you want something tasty, too. Many people might think – and with some good reason – that a naturally flavored drink like grape juice or orange juice would provide a beverage that’s refreshing and good for you.

But with the choices available to consumers in most supermarkets, they would be wrong. Why?

There are two assumptions many people make about their choices at the market based on labeling. 1) That a “natural” choice is always a healthy choice and 2) that the guidelines and advice given on food labels are straightforward and relatively transparent. They aren’t necessarily right.

If you’re concerned about eating healthy but you’re not sure how best to do it, get in the habit of reading food labels … and you need to know how to read them, too. (check part 1 for more info.)

If you wanted orange juice as a healthy way to quench your thirst, there are some reasons to opt for water instead. Why is that? Too much sugar is bad for you and processed foods are full of them. But some foods that advertise as “natural” foods are, too. A typical 8-ounce glass of pure orange juice can have around 21 grams of sugar, which is more than half the 36 grams recommended for men and only 25 grams for women. You may have read the packaging to be doubly sure and noticed that nothing was added to the juice. That made it look like it was “healthy” and “natural” which in moderation it can be but there’s almost an entire daily dose of sugar for women in a single 8 ounce glass.

You have to know how to read your food labels to avoid fooling yourself

There are plenty of other ways that food labels can undercount, deflect or underemphasize the potential unhealthy ingredients or components that go into food and food products. Here are some tips to avoid some unhealthy traps:

Nutrition information is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your particular healthy calorie intake may vary significantly.

Fats can also sneak into food labels in some interesting ways. Looking out for artificial fats (like trans-fats) and added sugars is only part of the healthy reading you need to do. If you’re eating things that don’t list a lot of beneficial nutrients (like iron, fiber, and vitamins) you might be consuming a lot of empty calories. Beware of sneaky trans-fats. If the label says “0 grams of trans fat” but also lists “partially hydrogenated oil,” that means there is less than .5 grams of trans fat – not a lot, but it’s there.

In today’s confusing food environment, you need to be educated to stay healthy. One of the best ways to do that is to learn about food labels.

KEY TERMS & IDEAS:

Nutrition information on food labels is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. When you’re assessing the information on food labels, remember to take into account the daily calorie intake that is healthy for your body’s needs, which may be more or less than 2,000.

Just because something is “natural” does not mean that it is automatically good for you. Fruit juices, for instance, are full of sugar and drinking a lot of juice could raise your sugar intake to very unhealthy levels.

Trans fats. “There are two broad types of trans fats found in foods: naturally-occurring and artificial trans fats. Naturally-occurring trans fats are produced in the gut of some animals and foods made from these animals (e.g., milk and meat products) may contain small quantities of these fats. Artificial trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. The primary dietary source for trans fats in processed food is “partially hydrogenated oils." Look for them on the ingredient list on food packages. In November 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in human food.”

LINKS & RESOURCES:

Durish Mozaffarian and Diyi Shangguan, “Do food and menu nutrition labels influence consumer or industry behavior?” STAT, February 19, 2019, https://www.statnews.com/2019/02/19/food-menu-nutrition-labels-influence-behavior/, accessed March 2019.

“The best and worst things you can do for your heart,” MDLinx, February 25, 2019, https://www.mdlinx.com/internal-medicine/top-medical-news/article/2019/02/25/7558495/?utm_source=in-house&utm_medium=message&utm_campaign=heart-feb26, accessed March 2019.

“Trans Fat,” heart.org, March 23, 2017, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/trans-fat, accessed March 2019.

“Understanding food nutrition labels,” heart.org, March 6, 2018, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/understanding-food-nutrition-labels, accessed March 2019.

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