Nutrition labels are supposed to make your choice easier and inform you sufficiently of the nutritional value of a certain food. But sometimes labels are misleading or unclear so it is good to take a second look.
Watch out for the following 6 labels next time you shop:
- Trans Fat Free: If a food it labeled “trans fat free” it does not mean that it is not full of saturated fat or empty calories. Look also out for the word “hydrogenated” which implies that there could be some trans fats after all. In some countries it is allowed to claim “zero grams” if it is less than 1/2g per serving so check the servings you are eating to avoid 1/2 grams of trans fat getting into your diet after all.
- Made with wholegrains: Foods labeled as made with wholegrain seem instantly healhty and wholesome but be sure to look for products made from 100% wholegrain instead. Unfortunately this label means little and foods can be made with very small quantities of wholegrain. Such foods have limited nutritional benefits and can be made with as little as 5% of wholegrain.
- No high fructose corn syrup: Such labeling gives the consumer no indication of the amount of sugar in the product. When it comes to sugar including “natural” sugar from fruit for example it is important to look at the overall sugart content. The less the better!
- Omega 3: Omege 3 has been a buzz word for some time and linked to many health benefits. Food containing “Omega 3” likely refer to ALA Omega 3 unless it mentions EPA, DHA or any fish or algal oil as an ingredient. Products containing flax, soybean oil or canola oil are also very likely to have ALA Omega 3 which is okay but it is worth mentioning that not all Omega 3s are equal. If you consume ALA, your body needs to convert this into the more potent DHA or EPA Omega 3 and typically only convers about 10%. So you may be getting less benefits than you think and it migh be worth opting for a differnet Omega 3 source.
- Detox: Another buzz word which does not seem to go away although it means basically nothing. When you read this on a label it does not mean that the food or drink is particularly healthy to consume.
- Natural: This word has been overused by the food and beverage industry so it kind of lost its meaning. Just bear in mind that just because something is natural does not mean it is healthy or nutritious. All sorts of drugs such as marijuana or heroin are made from natural ingredients but you wouldn’t touch that would you?
So next time you go to the supermarket have a second look at what you are buying and don’t let marketing fool you with buzz words and trends. If you are still unsure you can always ask us or check with a nutrtionist in your area. Alternatively go take the virtual supermarket tour from the Dietitian Association Australia.