Reading Labels by Aubree Steen, FNTP
Is Our “Food” Actually Food?
Transitioning food in your pantry and the staples in your kitchen into clean, healthful options can be a bit overwhelming. We’ve been given these “tools” from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help us decipher what’s in the package food we choose to buy. However, they’ve done a fantastic job at misleading us as customers. With multi-colored, vibrant packing, buzz words, and marketing terms to coax us into buying their products, we have fallen into thinking we are making healthful choices. We couldn’t be more wrong. Taking the bold, yet powerful, move to transition your food into more clean options can be overwhelming in itself. When you add the marketing and advertising fluff that’s inundated our foods in the grocery stores, even stores who claim to be superior in health food products like Whole Foods and Central Market, you can become more massively overwhelmed. At this point, I’m sure you thinking, “What the heck do I eat?!” There are a few tips and tricks to help make this process easier, hopefully alleviating stress throughout your health journey.
What are the Requirements for Nutritional Labels?
The Nutrition Facts labels is one of the most confusing tools the FDA has given us. It seems a bit straightforward, thinking, “Oh, okay. I see how much fat, calories, and sugar is in this. Perfect.” It seems easy enough, but the somehow brilliantly deceptive minds behind these claims have found a way to sneak in toxic ingredients, mislead our way of thinking, and deceive us by thinking we are making healthful choices. While the basic information of these labels are helpful, they still are a bit difficult to decipher. The Nutrition Facts label us required to list all ingredients in food on its label in accordance with these rules and regulations:
Ingredients must be listed in descending order, with the highest percentage of ingredients listed first.
- They must be listed in descending order by ingoing weight. This means the first ingredient listed is the largest contributor to the food product itself. The last product makes up the lowest percentage of the food. All the ingredients which make up a compound ingredient must be declared in the ingredient list, except when the compound ingredient is used in amounts of less than 5% of the final food. This means they can not disclose ingredients that are less than 5%, which leaves room for deceptiveness. In this small percentage of food, there can be food allergies, toxic chemicals, additives, and other ingredients that can take a toll on your health, which is pretty frightening to think about.
- Always check the first 3 ingredients, as they make up the majority percentage of the food you’re eating.
- If the first ingredients include refined grains, a type of sugar, or hydrogenated oils, the product is inherently unhealthy.
Certain ingredients can be listed underneath broad/vague terms such as “artificial coloring,” “artificial flavors,” “natural flavors,” “spices,” and more.
- We’ve discussed earlier that natural and artificial flavors are toxic to your health, but we haven’t addressed the fact that other ingredients can sneak into these umbrella terms. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) can be included under “spices,” and this is one of the most popular and dangerous additives. MSG has been linked to brain damage, nervous disorders, and even cellular death.
The names of any FDA-approved color additives must be included in the label.
- This, yet again, does not mean an ingredient is healthy if allowed by the FDA. These colors include Blue No. 1, Yellow No. 5, Red No. 1 and No. 3, and more. They’re found in sodas, candies, packaged cereals, and more. While allowed on the U.S. Nutrition Label and in our food, they are banned in countries such as France, Finland, Norway, and other European countries. They are synthetically produced and can lead to brain tumors, chromosomal damage, bladder damage, lymphomas, hyperactivity, thyroid tumors, allergies, insomnia, aggression and violent behavior.
If a food contains one of the eight major food allergies, it must be included in the label.
- This includes: milk, eggs, fin fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, soybeans, and wheat. If a spice, color, or flavor includes one of these ingredients, they must be labeled separately in addition to the other ingredients.
Sign up for my course to learn the top 4 toxic ingredients to look out for, the hidden names they’re listed under, how these toxins make us sicker, deciphering better options, examples of “clean” Nutrition Labels, and more!