UNDERSTANDING FOOD INGREDIENT LIST
Post by Askeko
Reading labels is a tricky deal.
Consumers are more concerned than ever, so manufacturers use misleading tricks to convince people to buy their products.
They often use word “ORGANIC” even when the food or beauty product is highly processed, unhealthy or full of chemicals.
The regulations behind labeling are complex, so it’s not surprising that the average consumer has a hard time understanding them.
This blog post briefly explains how to understand the ingredient list, and how to sort out the junk from the truly healthy foods.
One of the best tips may be to completely ignore the labels on front of the packaging.
Front labels try to fool you and convince you into purchasing products by making health claims. Manufacturers want to make you believe that their product is healthier than other, simple as that.
This has actually been studied. Research shows that adding health claims to front labels affects people’s choices. It makes them believe a product is healthier than the same product that doesn’t list health claims.
Manufacturers and producers are often dishonest in the way they use these labels. They tend to use health claims that are misleading, and in some cases downright false.
Examples include many high-sugar breakfast cereals, like “whole grain” Cocoa Puffs. Despite the label, these products are not healthy. In cosmetics it may say to contain organic oils when it may be less then 1% and it wouldn’t have any benefits on you.
This makes it hard for consumers to choose healthy options without a thorough inspection of the ingredients list.
Some ingredients on the list sound very ‘chemical-like’ and many people believe that ‘if you can’t pronounce the ingredient name, it must be bad for you’. That is not always true. There are plenty of common or naturally derived ingredients that have complicated names, but are safe to use and even have an important function in the product.
Focus on what comes first, but look further down the list, too. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. So if strawberries appear as the first ingredient in strawberry jam, it’s safe to say there are more strawberries in the jar than anything else. But here’s where it can get tricky. Many ingredient lists include multiple variations of the same ingredient. If you add them together, that ingredient could actually be the heaviest hitter. For example, just because a version of sugar isn’t listed first doesn’t mean sugar isn’t the number one or two ingredient in that food product. That brings us to our next tip…
Learn the buzzwords. Sugar, sodium and saturated and trans fats have a myriad of monikers. Sugar, for example, may appear as sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, honey, molasses and a slew of words that end in “ose” (think glucose, fructose, maltose and galactose). Worried about sodium? Watchwords include salt, brine, baking soda, monosodium glutamate and sodium benzoate. Fat, too, has a few disguises, including lard, partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils, tallow and shortening.
Opt for products with short ingredient lists. While additives and preservatives may be necessary to make certain foods safe for consumption, shorter ingredient lists are easier to understand.
Don’t be afraid of unfamiliar words. Tempted to steer clear of amaranth, quinoa (keen-wah), farro and spelt because you don’t recognize them? It turns out all four are nutrient-rich whole grains that are surprisingly really good for you. Even long chemical-sounding names may have a worthy purpose. Steviol glycosides, for example, come from the naturally sweet stevia plant. Thiamine mononitrate is simply vitamin B1. And ascorbic acid is vitamin C. Other ingredients, including soy lecithin and xanthan gum, modify the texture and mouth feel of foods and offer some health benefits. (Lecithin is a fat that is essential for the cells of the body, and xanthan gum is used to lower cholesterol levels and as a laxative.)
Don’t be fooled by healthy-sounding ingredients. “Wheat flour,” “brown rice syrup” and “palm oil” are just a few ingredients that sound more honorable than they are. Wheat flour is simply white or all-purpose flour—and therefore almost completely lacking in nutrients (look for whole wheat flour instead). Brown rice syrup is an alias for added sugar. And palm oil is a plant-based oil that delivers a heavy hit of saturated fat.
Don’t buy into front-of-the-box claims. Just because a package boasts appealing qualities—think claims like “made with whole grains,” “zero trans fats,” “low-sodium” and “high fiber”—doesn’t mean it’s an all-around healthy food. To get the full scoop, read the nutrition facts panel and the ingredient list.
In food labeling if the first ingredients include refined grains, some sort of sugar or hydrogenated oils, you can be pretty sure that the product is unhealthy. Instead, try to choose items that have whole foods listed as the first three ingredients. Another good rule of thumb is if the ingredients list is longer than 2–3 lines, you can assume that the product is highly processed.
Watch Out For Serving Sizes
The backs of nutrition labels state how many calories and nutrients are in a single serving of the product.
However, these serving sizes are often much smaller portions than people generally eat in one sitting. For example, one serving may be half a can of soda, a quarter of a cookie, half a chocolate bar or a single biscuit. In this way, manufacturers try to deceive consumers into thinking that the food has fewer calories and less sugar than it actually does.
Many people are completely unaware of this serving size scheme. They often assume that the entire container is a single serving, while it may actually consist of two, three or more servings.
If you’re interested in knowing the nutritional value of what you’re eating, you have to multiply the serving given on the back by the number of servings you consumed.
So, sometimes we may think that it is healthy and good for us but we maybe wrong. Keep your eyes open and don’t let big brands nicely sounding products to trick you. Not only look at the front label but mainly you need to look at the ingredients.
Stay healthy, live happy!