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Food Claims Explained: Part 2

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Food Claims Explained: Part 2

We help consumers wade through the dozens of obscure, ambiguous, and occasionally completely false food claims we encounter at the supermarket.

In a 2005 Ipsos-Reid survey 60 percent of Canadians say that “there are so many different things that you are supposed to look out for when buying foods … that it is impossible for an ordinary person to figure out what the right choice is.”

In part two of “Food Claims Explained” we help consumers wade through the dozens of obscure, ambiguous, and occasionally completely false food claims we encounter at the supermarket. 

Light
The word light on a product can mean one of two things: light in energy or light in fat. Products claiming to be light in energy must contain 25 percent less energy (calories) than a similar product that is not calorie-reduced. Likewise, a product claiming to be light in fat must contain 25 percent less fat than a non fat-reduced reference item. Be conscientious when choosing light products, as companies often add extra sugar, sodium, additives, and chemicals to enhance flavour, as removing fat from a product will inevitably affect its flavour.

Low in saturated fat
A product that boasts it is low in saturated can contain no more than 0.2 grams of saturated fatty acids per serving. Saturated fats come from mostly animal sources, but also from plant sources, such as with coconut and palm oils. Saturated fats tend to raise a person’s LDL (bad) cholesterol, so a diet low in saturated fat—with the exception of coconut oil—may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Natural
This may be the most obscure buzz word floating round the supermarket today. According to Health Canada, “Foods or ingredients of foods submitted to processes that have significantly altered their original physical, chemical or biological state should not be described as ‘natural’.”

However, also according to Health Canada, “some food additives, vitamins and mineral nutrients may be derived from natural sources.”  These “natural” additives could pose health risks, such as in the case of the Maple Leaf Natural Selections line, which was revealed to contain nitrates via “cultured celery extract.” Your best bet? Choose certified organic product containing only ingredients you recognize.

Non-GMO Project Verified
Many North Americans are concerned with the use of genetically modified (GMO) ingredients, especially as the long-term health effects are not known at this time. Thankfully, the Non-GMO Project has created a program to help consumers wade through the junk. Products that go through the organization’s strict verification process get to display the Non-GMO Project Verified seal.

Although the seal does not indicate the product is 100 percent free of GMO ingredients, as it would be too difficult to determine with the high risk of crop and seed contamination, it shows the product has been produced using best practices for GMO avoidance

Organic
In Canada, organic products must have a minimum organic content of 95 percent. If the product name says organic it must also have the name of the certifying organization on the packaging. Also, keep an eye out for the Biologique Canada Organic logo, which is a government-sanctioned, though voluntary, seal of approval.

Missed part one of the blog series? Check it out, and keep posted for more claims explained.  

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