Don’t Swallow Those Healthy Labels Whole

Just when you think you’ve got the healthy eating thing down right, some scientific papers come out to upend your sense of equilibrium.

While you’ve been vigilant in pursuing “healthy” options in your food purchases, you and millions of others are being “played” by the less scrupulous in the food industry.

Melinda Beck, in her comprehensive article, “The Fine Print: What’s Really in a Lot of ‘Healthy’ Foods” in the May 5th Wall St. Journal, provides far too many instances of manufacturers determination and success at fooling a well-intentioned but easily misguided public.

Chicken: Roughly one-third of the fresh chicken sold in the U.S. is “plumped” with water, salt and sometimes a seaweed extract called carrageenan that helps it retain the added water- and are allowed by The U.S. Department of Agriculture to label it “all natural” or “100% natural” because those are all natural ingredients, even though they aren’t naturally found in chicken.

The “plumped” chicken has between 200 and 400 mgs of sodium per serving, almost as much as a serving of fast-food french fries. And marketers attest to blind taste tests to underline the reality that more consumers prefer these “enhanced” versions.

Salt substitutes: Many contain potassium chloride, which can exacerbate kidney problems and interact badly with some heart and liver medications- not exactly the direction you wanted to take when looking for the alternative to salt.

Artificial Sweeteners: Many brands of Sugar-free gum, mint and candy contain sorbitol, a plant extract that isn’t completely absorbed by the body and works as a natural laxative. That’s why you often experience bloating, flatulence, stomach pains and diarrhea after consuming only one pack of gum, or sucking on a few sugar-free candies. Some diabetics and others who are sensitive to the effect, find that sugar alcohols, i.e maltitol and xylitol can raise their blood sugar.

Trans fat, Cholesterol- Free, Calories-Free: Manufacturers are allowed to “round down” their numbers when it comes to trans fat, “sugar-free,” “calorie free” and “cholesterol-free” labels….! Products labeled zero grams of trans fat can have up to 0.49 gram of fat per serving. You could still be consuming significant amounts of trans fat: if the ingredients include partially hydrogenated oil, hydrogenated oil or shortening, a product isn’t completely trans-fat free. And it may have considerable saturated fat as well. And foods that have trace calories and up to 0.49 gram of fat and carbohydrates per serving- can, yes, be labeled “free” of those properties!

Super Water: The Center for Science in the Public Interest states that drinks — with names like “defense,” “rescue,” “energy” and “endurance” — are mainly sugar water with 125 calories per bottle…

Government surveys show that most Americans aren’t deficient in many of the vitamins supplied in these drinks, and the excess gets excreted anyway. Coca-Cola Co. was sued earlier this year over claims on its Vitamin Water beverages.


05. May 2009 by Ruth Folger Weiss
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