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Why you must read and understand food labels.

Why you must read and understand food labels. 1024 683 Geoff

Ever wondered why they make food labels so small? Yes, so they fit on the packet, but if you also said “so they are hard to read” you would also be right. And there is a very good reason for making them hard to read……

Learning to read and understand food labels is one of the most important things you can do for your health. With significant research emerging that links sugar, vegetable oils and food additives such as colours and preservatives to chronic disease, it is vital that you read the list of ingredients to determine if you are happy to put the contents into your mouth. Don’t just look at the nutrient labels, have a very close look at the ingredients list and the percentages of the contents. Just remember to take your reading glasses to the supermarket!

Food companies have no interest in your health – only profit. Your local GP seems reluctant to understand food and the role it plays in your health – they are very good at prescribing drugs to mask symptoms. It is up to you to seek information, make informed decisions and take control. While food companies are making more and more health claims and while we are pumping more and more billions into chronic disease research – we are getting fatter and sicker and dying in ever increasing numbers.

Do you really want to ingest that preservative 211 (sodium benzoate – suspected to be a neurotoxin) that is found in some flavoured waters. Or the 17grams of sugar in the same product (4 teaspoons and over half the recommended daily sugar intake) – and this is a bottle of water marketed as being good for you.

You would think that breadcrumbs would be pretty harmless right? Check out this list of ingredients in the top selling brand at your supermarket – Wheat flour, wholemeal wheat flour, baker’s yeast, rye flour, rye meal, vegetable fibre, gluten, salt, canola oil, mixed grains (kibbled rye, kibbled wheat, granary malt wheat flakes, kibbled corn, buckwheat, triticale, kibbled barley, rolled oats, kibbled maize), wheat bran, oat bran, mixed seeds (linseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds), kibbled soy, soy flour, white spelt flour, vinegar, roasted malt flour (barley, wheat), vegetable gum (412), sugar, emulsifiers (481, 472e, 471), raising agents (500, 450), preservatives (282, 200), molasses, milk solids, honey, tuna oil, vitamins (folic acid, thiamin). Contains wheat, rye, barley, oats, sesame seeds, soy, milk and fish.

Breadcrumbs that contain hidden sugars, vegetable oils and lots of additives born and bred in a laboratory. And for some reason….fish! Perhaps it is better to spend that 1 minute making your own……

Kelloggs Nutri Grain – advertised as a food for healthy growing boys, contains a massive 32 grams of sugar per serve, heaps of sodium and very little fibre. That is not healthy. There are some “heart smart” breakfast cereals out there that are 30% sugar.

Something is not “all natural” if it contains any man made additives. Enriched and fortified means something chemical has been added to make up for the refining process that has stripped all semblances of nutrients from a product. “Lite” can mean light in colour or texture and have nothing to do with fat or sugar content. Whole wheat and whole grain products may have a pinch of whole-grains if you’re lucky and a bucket load of caramel food colour to make it look healthy and brown. Cage free does not mean that the chickens are happily scampering around a nice lush meadow – they may be crammed into a barn with millions of others and never see the sun.  The fruit concentrate (sugar) in that muesli bar made with “real fruit” does not make it a healthy snack. Fibre is not always natural fibre – it can be chemically added fibre and the Omega 3 content advertised on margarine containers will not make up for the toxic poison that the margarine is. Organic sugar is still sugar and low GI can be mis-leading  – a chocolate bar has a lower GI than a baked potato. Confusing isn’t it?

The fewer the ingredients on the packet, the closer the food is to something natural. The less refined or manufactured something is, the more nutrients and natural fibre it will be left with.

Fruit, nuts, vegetables – they don’t have additives (let’s not venture down the fertiliser and pesticides road today). Natural nut spread from the health aisle or the health food store has a list of ingredients one word long –nuts. Compare that with that Kraft peanut butter which has peanuts (85%), vegetable oils, antioxidant 320, sugar and salt. E320 is a preservative and a petroleum derivative otherwise known as Butylated hydroxy-anisole – yum!

The ever increasing incidences of chronic disease have coincided with the ever increasing availability of manufactured, engineered and refined foods over the past 50 years.  The things we blamed in the past (like saturated animal fats) we were told to stop eating which we did – but we continue to get fatter and sicker and die in increasing numbers. When was the last time your doctor questioned you about nutrition or exercise in any depth?

This article has not even scratched the surface and frankly the whole business can become overwhelming. But you have to start somewhere and once you do you can begin to make informed decisions and not be fooled by marketing hype that is sketchy at best and at times downright misleading. Grab a few cans and packets from the pantry and spend some time researching the ingredients. I reckon when you do that those cans and packets will become fewer in that pantry and will be replaced by ones that have fewer ingredients. Sometimes you have to hunt around and even spend a bit more to find foods that are less refined and less manufactured, often they won’t taste as good for a while (or is that just that they taste different) but you will get used to them and your health will thank you