Nutrient Content Labels – Which one is REALLY Right for You
If it looks too good to be true… it is. While this can apply to so many different areas of life, it certainly applies in the grocery store. One glance around the shelves and you’ll see all of your usual purchases, but take a step back and with a fresh set of eyes look at how many products now carry some sort of bragging rights on the front of their packaging.
I call them bragging rights, but more properly the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) refers to them as “claims”. They are divided into four categories: Nutrient Content Claims, Health Claims, Qualified Health
Claims, and Structure/Function Claims. Ahh, were you looking for the Nutrient Label, we have information on changes to share on it as well but for now:
- A Nutrient Content Claim are statements such as: low-fat, fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, low sodium and so on.
- A Health Claim is used by the food producer to indicate that consumption of their product “may” reduce the incidence of a particular disease. The key word for a Health Claim is “may” because the producer cannot imply that their product cures or treats a disease, only that something in their food could help (i.e. “Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease” was taken off a box of Cheerios).
- Qualified Health Claims are different from the aforementioned “health claim” in that these claims will show up on products that contain an ingredient which has undergone laboratory testing to show benefit in some area of health. You are more likely to see this sort of claim on a supplement, but I mention it here because supplements also fall under the FDA ruling.
- Finally, Structure/Function Claims will also be more prevalent on supplements. These make claims about what action of the body their supplement will help with – like protein shakes that boast about their ability to rebuild muscle after a hard workout.
The reason I delve so deep into the details of these claims is so you have a better understanding of the lengths the FDA goes to when trying to prevent a food producer from misleading you. This certainly doesn’t mean that the producers aren’t hiding a few cards up their sleeves. They are in the business of making money off the food they sell you. The more food they sell, the more money they make.
So if they can market a food to you in a way that makes you want it more than the box next to theirs, then they’ve done their job. It doesn’t just stop with the claims on the packaging, as they want you to be a life-long customer so they have to make sure the food is appetizing too. So when they remove something from a food (like fat, sugar, or salt), they often are replacing it with something else to keep the food taste appealing.
If you keep this in the back of your mind when you grocery shop a healthy dose of suspicion will help you to make wise choices. It is especially important to be aware of these claims and Nutrition Facts Label if you are having to eat a particular diet to improve your cholesterol, control your blood sugar, or lower your blood pressure. Read here to learn more about label choices and the American Heart Association’s seal of approval for cardiovascular healthy foods.
As with medications of any type, if you have or even feel you have a medical condition consult with your health care professional with any questions as certain foods may interfere with your prescriptions, need modifying or even aggravate your medical conditions. You should always consult with your health care professional before starting any diet no matter what it may be.
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