Friday, October 24, 2014

Fat-Free, Sugar-Free, Healthy-Free, Really?

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Walking down the aisle of any supermarket, consumers are plagued with front-of-package label claims. From “Less Sodium” to “Low-Fat,” deciphering what these claims actually mean can be tricky. Below is a guide to what these advertising claims actually entail. Using Bon’App to check the content of your food will put these claims into a simple, clear language that you can easily understand.

The Claim: Free

Synonyms: Zero, No, Without, Insignificant Dietary Source. 

Meaning: As the saying goes, nothing in life is ever free (including with foods). To boast this label, products must contain either less than 5 Calories,  < 0.5 g rams of Sugar or Bad Fat, or < 5 mg of Salt. 

The Label Lowdown 
  • Fat Free: There are two problems with "fat free". In foods like baked goods, fat-free typically means more added sugar. In terms of satiation, fat slows down digestion and keeps you fuller for longer, so products that replace fat with sugar aren't necessarily great dietary bargains. Secondly, fat free foods sometimes don't taste all that great, and if the foods aren't appealing, you may overeat them to make up for the lack of satisfaction. However, with dairy products, fat free may be the way to go because it removes bad fat and reduces calories. 
  • Sugar Free: Though picking sugar free foods reduces caloric intake, the sugar is replaced with an indigestible food additive that duplicates sugar's taste. Some people react differently to these, or claim they taste different.  If you don't mind the taste, opting for sugar free may be a good option, otherwise, just eat a smaller portion of the sugar-containing product. It will be healthier and easier to digest. 

The Claim: Low

Synonyms: Little, Few, Contains a Small Amount. 

Meaning: Either less than 40 Calories, under 1 gram of Bad Fat, and/or under 140 mg of Salt. This term may not be used for Sugar.

The Label Lowdown
  • Low Fat: low fat can be a great option for many foods because it generally removes the Bad Fat, keeping your Bon'App batteries in check. As with "fat free" claims, be careful with added sugar. Also, be sure to remember that not all fat is created equal, and consuming healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats is important for overall health.
  • Low Sodium (Salt): Low sodium alternatives within processed foods are a great way to enjoy the taste you want in a food without added salt. If you are watching your sodium intake, low sodium is therefore a great option for when you eat processed foods. 

The Claim: Reduced
Synonyms: Lower, Less, Fewer. 

Meaning: To be marked with the term reduced, the product must contain at least 25% less of a given nutrient in comparison to the normal item (of the same brand). 

The Label Lowdown

Though reduced items are usually a better option than the original, the claim can be deceiving. Even with 25% less of a given substance, processed foods may still contain a significant amount of Bad Fat/Calories/Sugar. Unsure if the product is a good option? Just ask Bon'App!

The Claim: Excellent Source

Synonyms: High, Rich in. 

Meaning: Must contain 20% or more of the daily value for that nutrient (i.e. Fiber, or Calcium for instance). 

The Label Lowdown 

These foods may be an excellent source of one nutrient, but be careful the product isn't also high in Calories, Sugar, or Bad Fat. For example, chocolate milk may be an excellent source of calcium, but the milk will also contain a lot of sugar. On the other hand, fiber filled foods typically contain whole grains, and are healthy options.  
The Claim: Good Source 
Synonyms: Contains, Provides. 

Meaning: Must contain 10% to 19% of the daily value for a given thing. 

The Label Lowdown

Here is where labels really get deceiving.......Though a food may contain a good amount of a vitamin or mineral, if the food is high in Bad Fat, Sugar, or "empty" Calories, chances are any healthy effects are negated by the unhealthy nature of the food. Before you eat that Pop Tart for its high vitamin and mineral content, make sure you also check the Bad Fat, Sugar, and Calories in it.    

The Claim: Enriched
Synonyms: More, Fortified, Added, Extra, Plus. 

Meaning: At least 10% of the recommended daily value. May only be used for vitamins, minerals, Protein, Fiber, and potassium.

The Label Lowdown

Caution: foods may not be as healthy as they appear.  This front-of-package label claim often distracts from other, less healthful aspects of the food like Bad Fat or Sugar content. Though being enriched is a good thing, don't be duped by these labels. Check with Bon'App before you buy and before you consume those products. 

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