Misleading Food LabelsKen Bendor
Learning the benefits of eating health foods may convince you to start eating them. But what if the foods you start eating aren’t any healthier than the ones you gave up? Misleading statements on food labels can lead to that.
Incorporating whole foods into your diet will give you energy throughout the day, prevent cancer and lower your cholesterol. Some labels may say multi-grains, whole grain and even whole wheat but not mean 100% whole wheat. None of these are lies since even refined flour (that doesn’t have any of the benefits 100 % whole wheat does) is a wheat or grain.
The only way to know if a bread or pasta is 100% whole wheat is by looking at the ingredients list. If the first ingredient says anything except whole wheat flour, it isn’t 100% whole wheat. Even if the first ingredient is that, keep reading down the list to make sure no other refined flours are mixed in.
Trans fat can be detrimental to your health. It can raise your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol. Recently the government required all companies to list trans fat on their nutrition labels. Sometimes labels will proudly proclaim trans fat free (or 0 grams of trans fat). Sometimes this doesn’t mean the food is free of trans fat.
Companies are allowed to list 0 grams if the total amount found in one serving is less than 0.5 grams. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you combine the habit of most to eat more than one serving and the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that you take in as little trans fat as possible, this hidden amount can become a problem.
Another trick that is used on the label may claim something similar to “0 grams of trans fat.. per serving.” The more servings you eat, the more trans fat adds up above the 0.5g level. The only way to tell if an item truly has 0 grams of trans fat is to look through the ingredients list. If any of the ingredients are either hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, trans fat is there.
When looking at low fat foods, sometimes you might see a statement similar to “90% fat free” which would lead you to believe that out of 100 calories, only 10 of them come from fat. That isn’t the case. This really means that 90% of the food is fat free by weight. If a food weighs 100 grams, 10 grams (90 calories) will come from fat. Make sure to look at the nutrition label to find out how much fat a food really has.
The Bottom Line
These are just some of the big examples of how product labels can say one thing but mean something different. The product label you see on the front of the food is just an advertisement. It’s trying to get you, the consumer, to buy it over the competition. The only way to truly know what the food contains is by reading the nutrition label. You are ultimately responsible for what you put into your body and the more education you have, the better prepared you will be to make those decisions.