Wed, April 01

Be Fit Fit! The Labels I Want and Do Not Want To See

So, we walk into a "natural" store. Or, into as "natural", "wholesome", "organic" and, generally, "beaming-with-health" store as it gets in the given area. And many of us assume that all products which the "as-natural-as-it-gets" store sells are, well. natural and good for us.

Unfortunately, this is not so.

First: Look at the labels. Look for the famous "9". If the long number on the sticker with the code starts with a "9", it means the product is indeed organic. Typically, the stores (even the "natural" ones) would blend lots of produce and other products, whose label number do not start with a "9". They mix these conventional products in hopes we do not notice that they are not that organic, healthy and "natural" (whatever this word means.) and we will purchase them. They are even recommendations to display these conventional items much more in our face than the organic fare they are famous and paid for. At the same time, these stores tend to have their prices for conventional food fares established much higher than any regular supermarket. So, with help of our lack of attention, lack of knowledge or lack of reading glasses and a magnifying glass to read these numbers, the stores aim at selling us the exact fare we do not really want to buy, or which we can get cheaper elsewhe re!

So, be aware of this situation and always check that the item you buy is indeed organic.

Second: Make sure the foods labeled with cool-sounding "GMO-free", "natural" or "gluten-free" labels do not contain other ingredients, which you'd rather stay away from. Oftentimes, the marketers would target the given group of population by saying what it wants to hear. Say, they would cheerfully label a naturally gluten-free product as. "100% gluten-free!" This note will bring full attention of any gluten-intolerant customer to this new great product, which, hey, is gluten-free! In their restless pursuit of getting our attention, the marketers will not mention in big letters on the front label that the manufacturers "enhanced" the given gluten-free product with lots of sugar or fat to compensate for the taste (which is, oftentimes, the case of any "gluten-free" fare). Or, the manufacturer would follow the suggestion of their marketing department and place the "No added hormones" label on their. chicken (while they simply are not allowed to use hormones while raising poultry !). So, the consumer thinks they are buying the healthiest fare, while, in reality, it is not so! It is. just a regular chicken.

Third: Let's put our attention to the example of the word "natural". This term is not regulated by the FDA. So, we all can claim something is "natural", because this word has no meaning to the FDA. So, FDA will not prevent manufacturers from using the term, which they do not care about, while the health-inclined consumer thinks that they do themselves a huge favor by buying the product, labeled as "natural" (therefore, having the connotation of "healthy"). Please beware of many other nonsensical and meaningless labels, such as "More than organic", "Antibiotic-free", "Free-range" or "Beyond organic" - they are not regulated and are used to make you buy the given food even if it is not really what you think it is!

The GMO label: Only in Vermont there is a law to plaster GMO labels on the foods which underwent genetic modifications. So, in most of the U.S., the absence of this sort of a label does not mean that the product has not been genetically modified.

If you want to avoid genetic alterations, look for two other labels (sticking them on the product means, indeed, that GMO have not been used): The "USDA ORGANIC" and the "Non-GMO Project Verified" labels. THESE ARE THE TWO LABELS YOU REALLY WANT TO HAVE ON YOUR FOOD ITEMS. Aim at finding the "USDA 100% organic" or "Made with organic" labels (meaning, respectively, that the food product is 95% + and 70%+ organic - not really 100%, but as close as it gets.). Also, visit the local Farmers Markets. Local farmers are - oftentimes - operating on a small scale. They cannot afford the US FDA organic labelling, even if they are compliant. Moreover, their products are fresher and spend less time in transport to reach you. Typically, at a market, you meet the farmer who actually grows the food you are about to eat. So, you can and should ask questions how they do what they do.

Always look at the back label of the given product (if you end up buying products that have such a label) - as you know, I always promote cooking from scratch, using the whole foods which "contain" only themselves, such as "an USDA Organic avocado"). The back label reveals much more about the given food item than the front one, which is designed to get us excited about the product and to make us buy it.

Good luck with this maze! Please keep yourself well-informed about the labels. This can only help you to make good and healthy food shopping decisions. Stay Fit-Fit!

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