Be Wary of These Top 5 Label Claims

Beware of these five misleading claims found on food packaging.

Trying to be a health-conscious shopper but confused by all of the info plastered on food packaging? Beware of these common misleading claims.

1. Cholesterol Free

Don’t be overly impressed by plant-based foods marked “cholesterol free.” All nuts, dried food and even potato chips are naturally free of cholesterol. As recently identified by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, paying attention to saturated and trans fats is more important for heart health.

2. Trans-Fat Free

By now it’s common knowledge that trans fats aren’t a healthy choice for heart health. The problem is that it’s hard to find where they might be hiding in your food. Current labeling laws say that any value less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving can be marked as zero grams. Yes, even if the label reads “0 grams” of trans fat per serving, there can still be trace amounts that can add up in several servings or over time. So for now, the best way to detect trans fat content is to check the ingredient list for hydrogenated oils and partially hydrogenated oils.

3. Natural

The average consumer may identify the word "natural" as meaning "healthy" or "unprocessed," but the truth is that this term on food packaging says nothing about the quality of the food. The real truth can be found by carefully reading the ingredient list.

4. Omega-3

Foods containing Omega-3 fats are in high demand because these important fatty acids help promote memory, immunity, skin health, vision and heart health. In this case the details really matter. The EPH and DHA form of Omega-3 fats are the fats associated with those benefits, while another common ALA form has less powerful qualities. Check foods carefully to see which type of Omega-3 fats they offer.

5. Non-GMO

Until now the only way to know whether a food was genetically modified or not was if it was organic (organic foods cannot be GMO). Some companies have made voluntary efforts to disclose their non-GMO status, but this leaves a lot open to interpretation. Recently the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new “Process Verified Seal,” in which participating companies can go through a series of steps to verify their processing and then feature the logo on their products. While this certification cannot completely guarantee that a product is GMO free, it can help consumers select companies that have made minimizing the use of GMOs a priority. It will also add to the options already available by the existing Non-GMO Project Seal (http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/understanding-our-seal/. For more information visit the USDA website. (link http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/processverified

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.

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