Health Food Buzzwords: Caution!

Summer has officially arrived. Maybe you didn’t get to lose those few extra pounds you wanted to shed before bikini season began, so you think, “I need a quick fix to lose weight!” Maybe you’ve committed to changing your grocery shopping habits to “healthier” items. Before you grocery shop again, educate yourself on the buzzwords that food manufacturers use to impact your purchasing decisions. Health buzzwords create acceptance in your brain, they persuade you that the Lean Hot Pocket is “better” for you than the regular one. Let’s put it this way, if a label is trying to convince you that it’s healthy, it probably isn’t.

Food industry leaders have created buzzwords and phrases that ultimately convey a false sense of health to consumers. A few common ones are: “fat-free,” “light,” “diet,” “gluten-free,” “all natural,” “organic,” “made with real fruit,” and many more. These phrases are simply a product of food the manufacturers’ marketing department to sell more products and more make money.  They are not meant to encourage a healthy America.

These “healthy” food labels may even cause weight gain in many individuals due to the psychological impact of buzzwords. When a company labels products to be healthier, individuals are often less aware of their portion sizes, and tend to eat more because they are convinced that it’s “healthy.”

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Let’s discuss a few:

Gluten-Free
Gluten is a protein found in grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye. When the gluten is removed from a product, other items are often times added to improve the taste, like sugar, fat, and other chemicals. Roughly 1% of the population has celiac disease, where the body cannot process gluten, therefore these individuals need gluten-free products for their bodies to function properly. Food companies have taken this term and turned it into a “healthy” label. For the majority of the population, gluten-free is not in any way creating a healthier diet. Gluten-free products are actually stripped of many essential nutrients, including fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc.

Diet/Light
Foods labeled “diet”, “light”, “low-fat”, and “sugar-free” are often filled with chemicals. When fat and carbs are reduced, chemicals are usually added to make foods palatable. If the majority of the ingredients are words you cannot pronounce, they are not good for your body, so skip it.

 

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Organic
Organic simply means, “non-essential pesticides and fertilizers were not used in the harvesting process.” While organic fruits and vegetables are contaminated with less chemical pesticides, organic ice cream is still ice cream, with loads of added fat and sugar. You can likely find any food labeled “organic” in a grocery store, but that does not mean the product is in any way more nutritious or has fewer calories than other non-organic products.

Made with Real Fruit
You should ask, how much “real” fruit? Fruit snacks and fruit juice are very high in artificial added sugar, not natural sugar from the actual fruit. Companies can claim to use “real” fruit, even if just an ounce of real fruit is used in their product. A real apple is high in fiber, which is removed in the process of becoming an apple toaster strudel breakfast pastry claiming to be “made with real fruit!”

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With your health at the bottom of the food industries’ priority list, do yourself a favor: read labels, do research to understand, and, most importantly, eat real food. Eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, poultry, beef, and fish. Our bodies can process real food, and will appreciate it much more than a load a chemicals with fewer calories. Instead of trying to find a quick fix to weight loss, try to just be healthy. After determining one’s macronutrients, the majority of individuals can surprisingly eat a lot more than they think without gaining weight. Find your numbers, and fill those numbers with nutritious sources of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, instead of processed “buzzword” food and drinks.

 

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Author: Katie Summers

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