By Sneha Sadhwani, Clinical Nutritionist
Over the past decade, consumers have become more health-conscious. They have become wise about choosing healthy foods and they have developed a smart habit of checking the food labels before purchasing any food product.
But, are these food labels reliable and hundred percent true? You will commonly find words on the food labels like- sugar-free, contains no added preservatives, contains no trans fat, organic and low fat. These words on the label makes the consumers believe that they are eating clean and healthy.
But reality check, these are just marketing gimmicks! Nutrition information on the food labels is complex and does not always live up to its potential to communicate effectively, reports a study. Here is some clarity about food labels, so that people can choose the correct type of product:
A food product that is machine-made and sold in packets can never be ‘all natural’. These foods undergo processing and preservatives are added to them to enhance their shelf-life.
Natural foods are those that are made or produced without the use of pesticides, fertilizers and genetically modified organisms (GMO).
Therefore, foods label with ‘contains natural foods’ or ‘made with natural ingredients’ mentioned on the products can alter the choice of the consumer and can have a negative impact on the health.
Always remember, natural foods are not sold in the packets, and they do not come with an ‘expiry date’ on the label.
Check The Ingredient List:
By reading the ingredients list, consumers can find out whether a food or a beverage contains added sugars, trans fat, added fat, whole grains, tree nuts, milk solids and eggs. This makes it easier for the consumer to choose a food product.
Made With Real Fruits:
Food products that claim to be made with real fruits, may not contain the real food ingredients entirely. Real or natural fruits have a shelf-life of 3-5 days. But, these packaged foods can be stored up to 3-6 months and sometimes even a year.
Consumers can clearly understand from this that artificial fruit flavors or syrups are added to these products. Or preservatives or other chemicals are added to boost their freshness.
These products contain little or no nutritive value as compared to fresh and whole fruits and vegetables. A study reported that fruit juices contain added citric acids and high fructose corn syrup. These added products are not natural and can affect the health of the consumer.
Animal foods like meat, milk and eggs contain cholesterol, whereas plant-based foods do not contain cholesterol. However, certain plant-based food products have ‘contains no cholesterol’ mentioned on their packets.
Tagging plant foods as ‘no cholesterol’ is a marketing strategy to increase the sales of their food product and to promote it as a healthy food. Hence, marketers confuse the consumers by creating a non-existent problem.
No Trans Fat Or Zero Trans Fat:
Eating foods rich in trans fat increases the risk of heart diseases and stroke. Trans fat is present in vegetable shortenings, margarines, crackers and cookies.
It is also present in snack items like microwave buttered popcorn, foods fried or made using hydrogenated oil, for example: potato chips, french fries, cakes and salad dressings.
Next time you read ‘solid margarine’ in the ingredients list of a food product, know that the food product contains trans fat.