This week, FDA announced that, as part of its update of food labeling, it’s asking us, the consumers, to submit our ideas of what the word healthy means. You may know my take already – if the label says a product is healthy, it’s probably not. FDA is making an attempt to change that. Current labeling guidelines indicate that in order to be labeled healthy, a product must contain at least 10% of the daily value of specific nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein, or fiber) OR contain at least 10% of the daily value of of potassium or vitamin D, OR have a fat profile makeup of predominantly mono- and polyunsaturated fats (i.e., sum of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are greater than the total saturated fat content of food).
The current guidelines say nothing about sugar – so if Twinkies were fortified with those nutrients listed above, they could be labeled healthy. Look at all of the breakfast cereals targeted toward kids! And those mono- and polyunsaturated fats? Those have an abundance of omega-6 fatty acids. We all need these fats, but we need them to be balanced with intake of other omega fatty acids, particularly omega 3s. If intake isn’t balanced, it creates an inflammatory condition, which underlies most of the chronic diseases our culture faces today, including (but not limited to) Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
And let’s consider the idea that it’s so much better to get our nutrients as they occur naturally in food, rather than have them stripped out and added back in again. As an example, those breakfast cereals are grain-based. But in the processing, the grains are stripped out, and then synthetic versions of the nutrients that were lost are added back in. How about eating a bowl of oatmeal instead??!!
So… while my preference is that we all eat whole, real food, as provided by nature, that’s not likely to happen soon. In the meantime, more accurate labeling is a GOOD start. Click here to get to a site that explains how to offer your thoughts about what it means for a food to be healthy. This is our chance to participate in making a change!