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Turn The Box Around

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Turn The Box Around

Have you ever shopped for groceries with a six-year-old? Not the most pleasant thing to do. Little hands are reaching for every box that has a pink unicorn on it, or happy rainbow, or cute little animal face. No, we can't buy those cookies just because they are pink. A carnival of sugar-loaded treats awaits children and adults alike as you step into the grocery store. The food carnival can be overwhelming, and the choices range from seemingly one extreme to another. Vegan to Paleo to Whole 30 to if it meets your macros to weight watcher points. So many confusing diets and trends that the average person may be so confused over what is best, that they give up entirely! It can be hard to determine the best way to eat for you and your family. The first step to learning how to create better food habits can start simply by reading the nutrition label and understanding why real food is a better choice than the fake food so many of us choose.

The Food Hoax

Not all foods are created equal. Many so-called health foods are just as bad as the regular stuff. Food companies can pull you in with heart-healthy claims, protein content, and even the new buzz word for many products, fiber! Those claims are just marketing techniques to get you to buy their brand of sugar cereal. Please don't assume these claims are true. Turn the product around and READ the nutrition facts. Understanding the label and reading the added ingredients can help you choose better options than the front of the box alone. It may also open your eyes to the toxic chemicals found in the packaged goods. 

Breakdown the Nutrition label into Parts

Serving Size- The new updated nutrition label has the serving size in bold as well as serving size per container. The font is also larger. The change in font and size may keep some people from eating too many servings. Pay attention to the size of a serving for every food. Do not assume it is the same from one brand to the other.

Calories- This is pretty self-explanatory. Keep in mind that not all calories are created equal. Consuming 100 calories of Oreos versus 100 calories of an apple is drastically different. Think about all the nutrients you are missing out on and all the toxins you are consuming. Which choice sounds better? Some dieting trends focus on calorie counts alone and not the quality of the food. I don't recommend anyone do that. Wrecking your body with processed foods is not the way to maintain your health as you age. Focusing on real foods will keep you from counting calories!

Fat-Unfortunately, fat has been villainized since the 50s and 60s. The elimination of fat from our diets is based on faulty science. The repercussion of low-fat diet trends is a country that continues to see obesity and diabetes on the rise, and according to statistics from the CDC, at least 6 out of every 10 adults suffer from at least one chronic disease. In 2008, only 44% of Americans reported living with a chronic illness such as diabetes or heart disease. In 2017, the numbers continued to rise to 54%. The increase is alarming on so many levels. For more information on healthy and unhealthy fats, you can reference my new article, "The Confusion over Fats and Oils," coming out soon! If you want to read more now, check out the book, "What the Heck Should I Eat," by Dr. Mark Hyman.

The nutrition label breaks down how many grams of saturated and trans fats are contained in the product. You might be wondering why trans fats would still be listed since the FDA announced that trans fats should be eliminated from our diet due to the dangers to our health. Most manufacturers are removing trans fat from their products because of the new ruling. However, some allowable quantities can remain in the product. If it lists trans fats at all, then there can be up to 0.5 grams of trans fat. That doesn't sound like much, but if all you eat is processed foods with trans fat, you may be getting way more than you think.

Saturated fats are villainized over other forms of fat, yet they are necessary for nervous system function and protecting the brain. Saturated fats aren't necessarily a bad thing unless they are in the form of processed food like mac n cheese. Saturated fats from coconut oils, for example, are a vital component to building hormones and having a functioning nervous system. If your fats are coming from processed foods, then rethink your dinner menu!

Sodium- The current recommendation is to limit the amount of sodium to less than 2300mg per day. Limiting sodium intake is especially important if you have high blood pressure or diabetes. There is a caveat to that; the human body does need sodium and potassium to regulate fluid balance. Consuming too little or too much can throw that balance off. Hyponatremia, low sodium, an lead to severe health consequences. Check out my article on "The importance of Drinking Water" for more details. I recommend using high-quality sea salt since it is less processed.



Carbohydrates- People tend to picture carbohydrates as strictly sweet foods, and they forget that potato chips are processed carbs just like cookies! Those chips are spiking your blood sugar just like those oatmeal creme pies. The nutrition label breaks down total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and total sugars, which includes added sugars. If a product claims it is low fat, then it is most likely high in added sugars. Fats and sugars give the product flavor. The fat hate wave lead to a dramatic increase in high sugar products. Manufacturers continue to use the same strategies now that people are getting wise to the increase of sugars in their foods by claiming low sugar! However, this just means the product is most likely high in fats and vegetable oils. The only way to know is to get the full story by reading the label.

Dietary Fiber is essential for gut health. The recommendation is to consume 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day. The average person gets half that. Food makers have used the recommendations to draw you to their product — especially cereal and breakfast bar producers. The type of fiber used can vary dramatically. Some food makers even use bamboo as the fiber source. Bamboo is not a typical human food and can lead to gastrointestinal upset like diarrhea and bloating. Choosing a fake food because it claims to have fiber is not the route to go. Increasing vegetable and fruit intake will easily get you the recommended dose of fiber per day.

Added sugars can be a problem when you take into account how much added sugar we consume daily. These sugars are usually dextrose, sucrose, and corn or grain sugars. Naturally found sugars can be added as well, like honey, but that doesn't make the extra sugar healthy for you.

The bottom line here. Our society consumes an excessive amount of sugar regularly. Being consciously aware of how much sugar is in your typical foods can help you choose healthier options for your family.

Protein-The amount of protein contained in a food may seem self-explanatory, but the quality of protein is vital to a balanced diet. The body requires 8 to 10 essential amino acids for normal function. These proteins are essential because the body cannot make them without consuming them in the diet. The new trend of vegetable protein powders and added proteins to foods that don't typically contain protein is a serious problem. For instance, what type of proteins are included in the high protein cereal you just bought? Is it grass-fed beef or pasture-raised chicken? Or is it pea protein or low-quality mass-produced meat? Does it contain all the essential amino acids? Typically, protein from vegetable sources do not contain all the essential acids needed for the body. A person must be very diligent and research which vegetable proteins to rotate so they can make sure to get all the essential amino acids. Protein can easily be added to a healthy diet by consuming eggs, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, and whey protein supplements. Protein bars are another trend that can trick the average consumer into buying high price bars instead of animal protein that must be cooked or prepared in some way for consumption. Check out my article, "Protein Bar Review" for more information on why protein bars are not always necessary.

Vitamins-Vitamins are nutrients that are vital to the body's cells. They play a role in hormone production, energy production, and cell growth. Adding vitamins to products may seem like a good thing. For many essential vitamins, fortifying foods has helped to prevent severe folic acid and iron deficiencies. The problem lies in assuming you are getting adequate levels of essential vitamins from these foods. The quality of the vitamin may be suspect in many of the processed products. For instance, Vitamin E exists in nature as eight different unique compounds, however, a food maker may choose the cheapest one and claim added Vitamin E. If you are eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, and quality animal protein, you will most likely consume the essential micronutrients to survive.

Percent Daily Values-The percent daily value shows how much a nutrient in a serving of the food contributes to a total daily diet. In general, 5% or less of a nutrient per serving is considered low, and 20% or more of a nutrient per serving is considered high. These percentages are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Do we all need to eat that much? Most women and men can function on much less than that if they are eating quality foods that satisfy and keep you full. If you are consuming all your calories from highly processed carbs and fats, then you are more likely to have blood sugar crashes that lead to overeating. Eating real foods will keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day.

Ingredients-The ingredient list is where you can get the scoop on what the product contains beyond only the primary macronutrients and micronutrients like carbs, fats, proteins, and vitamins. Ingredients are listed by weight in decreasing order. The first product listed adds the most weight to the product. Ingredients are listed by their most common or chemical name. This might sound great, but manufacturers assume the average person doesn't know all the common names for some of the toxic additives. There are several different names for high fructose corn syrup, including natural corn syrup, corn starch, isolated fructose, and even tapioca syrup. Learning the names of some of the most toxic food additives can help you choose higher quality products.

Natural flavoring sounds like a healthy additive, right? Natural flavoring has no official definition, and the FDA doesn't have strict regulations regarding this term. Because of the unclear definition, food companies list these additives as natural, hoping to get you to buy their product. Now many of these ingredients are modified from real foods like plants and animals. Still, they are then chemically modified by "flavorists" who can add more than 100 different preservatives, solvents, and other stuff. All these ingredients are considered incidentals and are not required to be on the label. Quite shocking if you ponder it! Although it may seem like a good idea to purchase foods with only "natural" ingredients, it still poses health risks just like artificial additives. Both artificial and natural flavorings are chemically very similar, and sometimes manufacturers can use both terms on the label. If you would like to learn more about these terms, check out the Healthline article "Natural Flavors: Should You Eat Them?" written by registered dietician Franziska Spritzler.              

Real food doesn't need a nutrition label

The government has mandated that processed foods must have a nutrition label so consumers can make an informed decision as to what product they buy. However, food companies can skirt around the whole truth by misleading consumers with advertisements and false claims. The ingredient list is usually in small lettering at the bottom of the box. Just think if they put that on the front. Would you buy it is you immediately saw it contained high fructose corn syrup? Still, the average consumer doesn't even look or understand what these additives are. Real food doesn't need that. When is the last time you found a head of cabbage with a list of toxic additives? One could argue that many fruits and vegetables contain toxic chemicals like pesticides. I agree! Buying organic whenever possible and washing fruits and veggies before consuming can decrease the chances of consuming too many pesticides and herbicides. Buy local whenever possible! The quicker the food gets to you, the less likely it is contained with pesticides.

Start a new habit of buying foods only after reading the nutrition facts. Don't believe any hype claimed on the front. Remember that most prominent food companies just want to sell their product. They don't want what is best for you or your family. A good rule of thumb, eat the way your great grandparents would eat. Don't eat food that would last through a zombie apocalypse!

 This informative article on Nutrition is courtesy of Laura Alexander, Doctor of Pharmacy and Certified Personal Trainer. Laura’s mission is to inspire people to live a healthy lifestyle and to be able to avoid medication and live a more productive life. Here at Excel Body Fitness, Laura works as a Personal Trainer and will begin Nutrition coaching within the near future. 

#nutrition #fitness #nutritionlabel #pharamacy

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