Food Fortification: How Much Is Too Much?

Most health conscious folks are looking for foods full of vitamins and minerals, but some products tout good stuff that doesn't exist there naturally.

Most health conscious folks are looking for foods full of vitamins and minerals, but some products tout good stuff that doesn't exist there naturally. Is pumping foods with extra nutrients just as good? We’ll give you the facts.

What is Fortification?

Fortifying or “enriching” foods is the process of adding supplemental vitamins and/or minerals. Since the amount added can vary, read labels carefully. To see if a food has been fortified check the ingredient list, any nutrients listed as ingredients were added in.

What Foods Are Fortified?

In recent years, large-scale public health initiatives have called for the fortification of certain foods to help when a population is at risk for a specific nutrient deficiency. Folic acid is added to grains and cereals to prevent a particular kind of birth defect, while iodine is added to table salt to prevent iodine deficiency.

Foods are also fortified to help those with allergies meet their nutritional needs. Products like calcium-fortified orange juice and soymilk are great ways for those with lactose intolerance to take in more calcium and vitamin D.

Foods are sometimes fortified to appear healthier than they really are. Healthy imposters like packets of Splenda with added fiber, antioxidants and B-vitamins, or Subway breads with boosts of calcium and vitamin D are sprouting up everywhere. Labels on “ Who Nu” cookies boast that their products have “as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal, as much vitamin C as a cup of blueberries”, and “as much vitamin A as an  8-ounce glass of tomato juice.” But does that make these sugary treats “healthy? If you look at the ingredients you’ll also find a long list of preservatives including added sweeteners and trans fats.

Be on the Lookout

Fortified foods can be put to good use in a healthy diet but should never be a replacement for the real thing. It seems a little excessive to be looking for nutrients in packets of artificial sweeteners and crushed up multi-vitamins in cookies and sandwich-shop breads. While it may be true that some folks need more vitamins and minerals, eating a diet loaded with fortified foods can lead to dangerous side effects since many vitamins and minerals can be toxic in large doses.

Bottom Line: Some fortified foods serve an important purpose; others are more for clever marketing than better health. Seek out genuine sources most of the time to give your body what it needs.

Tell Us: Do you buy fortified foods?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

You Might Also Like:

Keep Reading

Next Up

Star in Training

The Next Food Network Star winner Aarti Sequeira takes us through the making of her new show, Aarti Party.

Ask HE: How Much Salt is Too Much?

Heavily-salted foods are on the chopping block all over the country. Some of the world’s largest food companies are slashing the salt content of their foods, and a new study says salt reduction can help your health. But is all salt bad?

Sew Much Food

Crafters are cranking out something new and totally irresistible: crocheted snacks. Inspired by the popular Japanese art of amigurumi (crocheting small dolls and toys).

Introducing Belty, the Belt That Knows When You've Eaten Too Much

Belty, a new “smart belt” introduced at CES, is designed to automatically adjust itself based on how much you’ve eaten and exercised.

Food Labels to Get a (Much-Needed) Makeover

Nutrition Facts Panels (aka “food labels”) are getting a much-deserved makeover. According to the FDA, efforts will be made to upgrade the 20-year old format found on food packaging.

So Much to Eat in SoCal — On the Road with The Great Food Truck Race

Get restaurant recommendations from Food Network's On the Road as part of The Great Food Truck Race, Season 5.

How Much Do You Have to Ski to Burn Off Vacation Foods?

Find out how much activity it takes to burn off high-calorie foods when hitting the ski slopes.

Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste (and Save Money Too)

We throw out a staggering 40 percent of our food in America, which is not only taxing on the planet...but on our wallets too. These easy tips can help you save them both.

Food Porn: The Good, the Bad and the All Too Pretty

Those gorgeous photos of perfectly presented dishes we can’t get enough of may prompt us to eat more, researchers say. But don’t worry; there’s good news, too.