Critical Food Package Info that is Often Overlooked
January 17th, 2016 by Kari Schadler, M.A., CRC, CHHC
What do you think is the most important information on food packaging? Take a moment to consider your answer…
You might think it’s the carbs, especially if you’re concerned with or experiencing diabetes.
You might think it’s the fat, or sugar, or maybe even the fiber and nutrients.
Your mind may have shot right to the number of calories…
Perhaps you look for an American Heart Association certified label (which is completely bogus btw; sorry to break it to ya…;).
Maybe you look to see if it’s organic or if it has Non-GMO Project verification.
Those things matter, but there is something that matters more. Any guesses?
It’s not the carbs. If you happen to be concerned with or experiencing diabetes, and want to prevent it or help your body reverse it, be sure to (team up with a qualified doc and) check out these recommended resources: 1, 2, 3.
It’s not the fat. Sadly, there was a period in our modern history where fat was demonized resulting in sugar-packed, low-fat and no-fat pseudo-foods. If you haven’t heard the awesome news yet, that we NEED plenty of healthy fats to surthrive, then you’ll definitely want to check this and this out.
It’s not the sugar. But, holy schmokes – keep an eye on that too! Sugar is one of the main contributors to our current obesity and disease epidemics.
It’s not the fiber or nutrients. When food is processed, the real* fiber and nutrients are taken out, so that the product doesn’t spoil and can sit on the shelf. Oftentimes, they’re put back in synthetically but it is questionable whether these ingredients are readily bioavailable to our bodies. At minimum, they aren’t nearly as beneficial as eating the food in its whole, unprocessed (or lightly processed) form.
It’s definitely not the calories. Many of us were taught that for maintaining a healthy weight, calories in = calories out; basically meaning that the amount of calories we take in needs to be expended through some form of movement or exercise. This is a myth. Modern research (and countless dieters!) has shown that not all calories are created equal. We are not just what we eat, but rather what our bodies (including, but not limited to, our hormones) can do with what we eat. A hundred calories of carrots is quite different than 100 calories of Cheetos.
Any other guesses? You ready to hear it already?
Here it is: it’s the ingredient list.
Before we dive in, I want to mention that a colorful, organic, whole foods diet is best for optimal health. The more you can crowd out the bad stuff with real foods, the better. The Standard American Diet is wreaking havoc on our health.
Okay, now that that’s said, let’s get back to the ingredient list.
Here are my top 3 guidelines:
- The shorter the list, the better: my favorite example of this is the one ingredient nut butter (a staple en mi casa)
- Watch for hidden GMOs: there are hundreds of ways that GMO ingredients are listed on food labels (none of which are transparent about what exactly, that ingredient is); if a food item isn’t certified organic and/or Non-GMO Project verified, you can almost bet on it containing GMOs (from genetically modified corn, soy, canola, sugar and other sources)
- Be sure you know what each ingredient listed is: in America, our packaged foods are made differently than the same products in other countries and frequently contain difficult to pronounce artificial flavors, dyes, sweeteners, preservatives and so on; the accumulation of these chemicals has created a mess with our health in this country
That’s not to say that an ingredient and therefore packaged food item is immediately bad for you if there’s something you can’t pronounce or something you’re unsure of on the list (although more often than not, that is the sad truth).
The bottom line is that a colorful, organic, whole foods diet is best for optimal health; however, for the times that you opt for something else, be sure to check out the ingredient list!
A diet consisting of mostly plants, especially non-starchy veggies, with plenty of healthy fats and protein is ideal (don’t forget about nuts and seeds as great sources of both).
Opt for more foods that do not have ingredient lists and commercials and see what happens to your health!
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PS: a colorful, organic, whole foods diet is by far the best for optimal health, but in our face-paced culture, it’s understandable that you’d eat processed foods on occasion. Maybe you even live off of processed foods like the majority of Americans (I used to!). The more you can incorporate “real” food into your life, the better you’ll feel. Why not give it a try?
PPS: Are you interested in learning more about optimizing your gut health? Be sure to check out GutRestorationProject.com.**
*I say, “real” because “natural” really doesn’t mean anything. Every single box, bag and jar in any given grocery store could say “natural” on the front if the companies that sold them wanted; even if they all contained preservatives, artificial ingredients and weird fillers (beaver butt, anyone?).
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