Do Ingredient Labels Lie?
If you believe that food is medicine, would you think that ingredient labels lie? I paid to attend an Open House hosted by Random House that brought together writers on healthcare, wellness, and happiness. There were a number of interesting authors on the stage during the day. I want to highlight however something I retained from what David Zinczenko, author of Eat This Not That, had to say.
It was “Everything that is labelled natural is not food.” First thought is that sentence make no sense. It would never occur to me given the existence of the Organic Trade Association and the non GMO movement that a food could be organic and contain natural flavorings yet not be food as we know it.
Thus an organic cookie that smells like vanilla COULD contain beaver anal secretions that happen to be natural (in nature) and is used in the foods we eat. I am sure you are not thinking beaver anal secretions when you paid a little extra for that organic cookie that smells of vanilla. Similarly when I read cellulose on the ingredient labels, I am not thinking cellulose is virgin wood chips. Nor for that matter am I thinking that cellulose is widely used as a life extender in crackers (that I love), ice cream, pudding, baked goods and shredded cheese for that quick taco.
At the heart of one’s desire to eat healthier meals is the desire to know what is in our food. It’s impossible to stay on top of everything. But if we decide to take responsibility for what we put into our mouths, we’re going to have to be more diligent about our choices.
This means we really have to take the time to read ingredient labels. For the time being this is with full knowledge that the truth being stretched. Caloric claims may be off by as much as 20% which is allowed by the FDA. With 70% percent of the American diet being processed, vigilance is required. It is therefore a given that a large percentage of foods contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. So we must go beyond the captivating front photo of a trusting image to READ the ingredients. Then decide whether to eat or not. Eliminate or significantly reduce all foods that are technically not food, like candy. And try, try try to eat foods that contain as few ingredients as possible.
One ingredient is the best number. By the way David Zinczenko’s new book, “Eat it to Beat It” will be available for pre-order New Year’s Eve. According to David, this upcoming book will focus on the best and worst foods for common health concerns, from weight to blood pressure to heart health.