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Are the foods you're buying really healthy?

July 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Walk down the aisle of your local grocery store, and you'll see labels on many products claiming they're healthier than before. But just how healthy are they? "There are a lot of products out touting added fiber, antioxidants, servings of fruits and vegetables in things like bars and cereals," said dietitian Patricia Bannan. "And you really have to read the fine print."

Bannan says big budget food campaigns may try to sway us to overrate certain products.

"For example, they're now adding fiber to Pop Tarts and Fruit Loops," said Bannan. "You've got to keep in mind it doesn't make it a healthy food."

"Just because they've added the fiber doesn't mean we can ignore the rest of the ingredients in there," said dietitian Ashley Koff.

Koff says more often than not companies include fibers not naturally occurring in that food which can put a food in the high fiber category of five grams of fiber or more, which is misleading. That's because studies done on fiber benefits have only tested food with natural fiber.

"It's my hope that the government in addition to professionals and thinking consumers will jump in and say 'No, we're not going to buy this,'" said Koff.

How about products touting servings of produce? Both vegetable pasta and veggie crackers have a scant amount of vegetable powder in the mix, but that's it. Popular V8 advertises two full servings of vegetables per can.

"It's true that it does have vegetables in it, but it's mostly watered down tomato juice," said Bannan. "It's not a bad food, but it's never as good as eating your fruits and vegetables."

It also adds sodium.

"The fruit is mostly apple or grape juice, its high in sugar," said Bannan. "It's not a bad product, but it's not the same as eating an orange."

Market research shows it takes less than second to make a decision about a product. So when the package screams "health food" it is important to look beyond those words on the front of the package.

If you are looking for vitamins, minerals or fiber you want to turn that package over and check the nutrition facts and ingredients to find exactly how much is in the product. More importantly you will want to know how much you need. What's ironic is the foods that have the best of all of these ingredients, don't wear labels at all.


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