Five ways to avoid misleading nutrition claims
You are taking your health and nutrition decisions into your hands. That is great! However, some of the nutrition information you are getting from T.V., websites, social media, advertisements, and so on might not be so great for your health. How do you tell facts from fiction about the latest nutrition hype when a study touts facts, and another contradicts them? As you are trying to empower yourself into healthy living, it can seem that you are just getting confused.
You are not the only one. What exactly constitutes healthy nutrition? This blog gives you some tips to help you make informed decisions about the foods you consume.
1. Read the label.
We have all heard a company claim its product is healthier for us than it actually is. Take fruit juices, for example. They are convenient and healthy sources of minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins.
Not so fast. Read the product’s nutrition facts label. The label might reveal that fruit juice has more calories and sugar than a can of soda, another sugary drink that is harmful to our long-term health. Processed foods like sodas and fruit juices are related to our nation’s rising rates of obesity. The more foods are processed from their natural states, the less healthy and nutritious they become. For example, canned apple juice is less nutritious than eating an apple because the juice mainly contains sugar, artificial flavors, preservatives, and other additives while leaving behind micronutrients and fiber.
Read the label to identify the highly processed foods. If the ingredient list contains items you would not usually find in your cupboards, and if you feel that you need a degree in biochemistry to pronounce the ingredient list, the particular product is most likely highly processed. Instead, you should maximize your nutrition by including plenty of plant-based, whole food in your diets, such as vegetables and fruits.
2. Recognize red flags.
You must look for the following red flags in a product to recognize if the nutrition claim of the particular product is misleading.
- Recommendations that promise an instant fix or claims that sound too good to be true
- Dire warnings of danger from one product or regimen or simplistic conclusions drawn from a complex research
- Dramatic statements refuted by reputable scientific organizations or recommendations based on a single study
- “Spinning” information from some other product to match the particular producer’s claims or lists of “bad” and “good” foods.
3. Be skeptical.
A dose of skepticism is always healthy. Remember that words used to describe studies and research do not mean that the science checks out. Watch out for non-science-based testimonials supporting the product, usually from celebrities or delighted customers. Also, watch out for statements about research being “currently underway,” indicating that there is no current research on the quality of the specific product.
4. Ask the nutrition experts.
A licensed dietician (LD) or a registered dietician (RD) has specialized degrees in nutrition, dietetics, public health, and related sciences from an accredited university. These diet experts are trained to give easily understood and accurate nutrition and health information. They will help you improve your nutrition I.Q. so you can be on the lookout for false instant fix recommendations, so-called scientific breakthroughs and secret ingredients, and other misleading nutrition claims.
5. Look out for added sugar, salt, fats, and chemical preservatives in packaged food.
These ingredients and unnatural additives and colors are added for flavor, giving better texture to the packaged food and extending its shelf life, for example, sugar in cakes or salt in bread. Added sugar and high fats add extra calories compared to natural foods. Consuming more of these processed foods can cause eating more than the recommended quantities since people might not know how much has been added to the food they are purchasing. Sugar goes by numerous names, many of which we might not recognize.
Food manufacturers use various names of sugar to hide the actual amount present in their products. To avoid accidentally consuming a large quantity of sugar, watch out for the terms: Brown sugar, beet sugar, cane sugar, buttered sugar, invert sugar, coconut sugar, evaporated cane juice, confectioner’s sugar, date sugar, and caster sugar.
For food additives: Look for preservatives, artificial sweeteners, coloring, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and flavoring. These are the substances that are added to food to enhance its appearance and taste or preserve flavor. If your packaged food contains these additives, it isn’t considered organic.
How can one identify a misleading label?
Research shows that adding health claims to the front labels of products makes people believe that the particular product is healthier than the same product that does not list health claims hence, affecting customer choices. Manufacturers are usually dishonest in the way they use these labels. They usually tend to use health claims that are misleading and, in a few cases, downright false.
‘Health claims’ means any representation that states, implies, or suggests that a relationship exists between a packaged food or a constituent of that food and health and include nutrition claims that describe the physiological role of the nutrient in the development, growth, and normal functions of our body.