Why you really need to read your food labels
I'm currently in the United States which means discovering new foods and familiarising myself with new brands. All too often it's so easy to pick up a product based on what's displayed on the front of the pack - and be caught out by terms such as 'organic, no added sugar, fat free, low GI, non GMO, Gluten Free, dairy free'.... the list is a mile long! But whilst some of these terms may represent a genuinely healthy product, it's not until you turn to the back label, that you will discover the FULL story about what's really contained in the product. Seemingly 'healthy' products from the front cover, can turn out to be not so healthy when you take a closer look at the full ingredients list and the nutritional panel.
What's displayed on the front of a product is not governed by the same regulations, as what has to be displayed on the back label and this is where you will discover what's REALLY in your food.
Since arriving in the States, I was momentarily fooled by foods disguised as 'healthy', until I closely read the back label and discovered what they really contained. Perhaps the most alarming of all is just how many products in the US contain added sugar, even seemingly healthy foods like gluten free bread! Whether it's in their nuts milks, like almond, or coconut milk, gluten free bread, even fresh, healthy looking salads in health food chain - Whole Foods - lunch buffet often contain added sugar and hidden gluten.
My morning ritual of starting the day with a green vegetable juice, often had to be replaced by a bottled, unpasteurized brand from an organic supplier, thanks to the lack of fresh juice bars in certain area's and again, I was shocked to discover some green vegetable juices contained up to 35 grams of sugar per 400ml serve from the added fruit!! My Green Goddess blend is very low in fructose, thanks to containing only 1/2 to 1 small fresh apple, which I only recommend for flavour, but if your hard core you can always go with out. A lot of fresh juice bars around the States sell freshly bottled protein smoothies that are advertised as 'healthy, raw' smoothies, but turn the label over and hey presto....there's a whopping 30 odd grams of sugar per serve, thanks to the agave or fresh dates and high sugar fruits like banana. Way too much sugar from fructose if you're watching your weight or just trying to control inflammation.
I make a point of never assuming a product is healthy, until I do a full scan of both the ingredients list and the nutritional panel because this is where you will discover what's really in your food.
GMO foods are also a big issue in the US with around 90% of all soy and corn being GM - genetically modified. There is currently a massive lobby to get the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to enforce producers of GMO foods to label them as such, so consumers are aware if a product contains GMO ingredients,but more on that BIG issue later.
So remember, just because a food product displays terms such as - 'organic', 'gluten free', 'no added sugar', 'free of artificial additives', 'low fat', or 'low GI' on the front of the packaging, does not necessarily mean it's healthy for you.
Until you assess how much sugar its contains, what type of sugar, and what other ingredients are contained in the product, you won't be able to accurately assess just how healthy it is.
The safest way to guarantee you're eating healthy, nutritious, whole foods with as little processing and added nasties, is to buy fresh, organic ingredients and prepare as much of your food at home yourself. This way you can be sure of what's really going into your food. All you need to consider when buying your fresh ingredients, is where your food was grown - e.g.: locally vs imported and how fresh it is and whether it's been sprayed with chemical nasties.
I know all this can seem a little daunting and overwhelming at first, but all you need to do is take the time to familiarise yourself with your local organic farmers markets and any packaged products you're buying and once you know what,when and where your food has come from and what's in it, you won't have to spend as much time reading every label! The less packaged food you're buying, the less likely it will contain all the crap that can go into processed foods!
Remember, your body and your health is your most precious asset, so it deserves the time and effort necessary be as healthy as you can be. If you need a little more guidance on how to read food labels, shop for and cook delicious healthy meals and learn which products I recommend as the healthiest you can buy, you can find out all you need to know in my book, Love Your Gut.
All Rights Reserved Sally Joseph 2013