When you look at food packaging, you often see words like “organic”, or “non-GMO”. Many of us have a general idea about what these nutrition labels claims mean, but in terms of nutrition quality, what’s it all mean? Let’s take a look at some of these labels and break them down.
To carry the American Heart Assoc. logo, foods must meet standards for saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, and nutrients. If there isn’t an AHA Label, it’s just a manufacturer’s claim.
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms-plants that have been altered through genetic engineering. Soybeans and corn are some of the biggest crops. Food manufacturer’s in the US are not currently required to indicate when an item carries them, however, brands that do not contain them are often high-lighting that now on their labels. If this is an important issue you, look for labels that have the GMO-free seal.
Foods with this label must contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Look for foods with this label and shoot for daily fiber ranges between 25 – 38 grams per day for adults. Fiber is vital to good health!
Sounds healthy, but a product bearing this claim may not have any whole grains at all! They may only have refined flours made from two or more grains. Foods labeled “Whole Grain” must contain 51% or more whole-grain ingredients per weight – be low in saturated fat and cholesterol as well. Multigrain itself is meaningless. Look for the stamp from the Whole Grains Council to make sure that the claim is valid.
Food labels that make this claim must contain 140 mg or less of sodium per serving. Packages and prepared foods account for most of the sodium we consume. If you are using these foods, make sure that you see the Low-Sodium claim on the label.
There is no legal definition or “natural” in food. And not everything that is natural is necessarily good for you. Instead of looking for All-Natural, look for “No Preservatives.”
Trans Fat Free
Labels that make this claim are tricky. Legally these foods are still allowed to contain up to half a grams of trans fats per serving. That’s not a lot to be concerned about if you eat them occasionally, but if you consume them often, you consume a lot of trans fats. Find foods that don’t contain any partially hydrogenated oil. Those really are trans-fat-free.
When a product is marked “100% Organic,” everything in it, except water and salt, must be organic. When a label just says “Organic,” it means that it must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. “Made with Organic” means that at least 70% of the ingredients are organic. The most important claim to look for if this is important to you is “Pesticide Free ingredients.” That claim really means something, and more important than simply “Organic.” Not to bash on the “Health Food” stores, but buyer beware! Why are you paying more for the claims? Look for the truth, not the claim. Even an “Organic” Cookie is still, truly, just a more expensive cookie!