Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS • Nutritional Periodontist
June 12, 2017
Questions For You:
- Do you know what’s in the packaged and processed foods you buy?
- Do you know how to read the Nutrition Facts printed on food products?
- More importantly, do you know how to read the Ingredients List on the packaging?
- Do you know what the Organic Seal means?
The FDA has approved new regulations for the Nutrition Facts. July 2018 is the date for the new labels to be printed on all products. However, the Ingredients List has not been changed, and it may still be a challenge to understand. This list tells you most of the ingredients that are added to the packaged food you are purchasing, but some of the words may be confusing. Another important label is the Organic Seal. It adds another piece to the puzzle of understanding the contents of the food you buy. Here are some facts you need to know.
The new Nutrition Facts will be easier to read and more helpful. This comparison chart summarizes the old and the new labels.
A new and important piece of information included on the new label is “Added Sugars”. “Added Sugars” are those extra sugars (or “free sugars”) that have been added to the product above and beyond the natural sugars, which are inherently part of the food you are buying. Why is this important?
Among many organizations warning of the harmful health consequences of added sugars, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a monograph in 2015 titled Guidelines: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children. This published research goes into the details of “free sugar” consumption and how “free sugars” affect chronic disease in the worldwide population.
Discerning consumers now will be able to see how much of this added carbohydrate is in the food they are buying.
The Ingredients List tells what is put into the product deliberately. You will learn the foods that are in the package as well as some chemicals and added substances. The items are listed in descending order of the amount of the ingredient that is in the package. Healthier foods have very few ingredients, which should be recognizable to you. If you don’t like what you see, then don’t buy the product. If you don’t know the ingredient, look it up on the Internet. Any of the following listed substances should scream out to you, “Don’t buy me!” – high-fructose corn syrup, synthetic trans fats, artificial flavors, monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives. Be aware that many substances like glyphosate or mercury will not be identified in the Ingredients List.
I have photographed the Ingredients Lists of three different packaged foods. Read what they tell you:
1. This label explains clearly what is in the package. You probably recognize each ingredient. They all are healthy foods. The three most dominant items are almonds, coconut, and sunflower seeds.
2. This list tells a different story. The first three dominant ingredients are sugar, invert sugar, and corn syrup. As you read on, you will get more discouraged. Would you feed this to your family?
3. The last image includes a huge number of items, many of which are emulsifies, grains, sugars, and unhealthy oils. After reading about this frozen chicken product in the grocery store, I put it back on the shelf. It’s not for my family or me.
One of the most meaningful labels on food packaging is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Seal.
For a product to be certified organic, it’s required to meet these requirements:
- Organic crops cannot be grown with synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides or sewage sludge.
- Organic crops cannot be genetically engineered or irradiated.
- Animals must eat only organically grown feed (without animal byproducts) and can’t be treated with synthetic hormones or antibiotics.
- Animals must have access to the outdoors, and ruminants (hoofed animals, including cows) must have access to pasture.
- Animals cannot be cloned
You are the master of your kitchen and your dining room table. You have total control of what you purchase to eat and share with your family. If you are trying to be proactive and provide nutrient-dense choices of food, you must become knowledgeable with the Nutrition Facts, the Ingredients List, and the Organic Seal. These tools are invaluable. You will learn a wealth of information by reading and understanding them.