If you’ve read my book, The Plant Paradox, you probably know I’ve got an issue with the way the food industry markets food. The marketing guys for the big food companies will say anything to get you to buy what they’re selling.
So, they bend the rules, cut corners, and find all sorts of ways to hide the truth. They figure honest-ish is good enough – they can run their business the way they want. But, honest-ish isn’t honest. So, you’ve got to be on the lookout.
Now, my biggest issue is with all the ways they label food to make it sound healthy – even if it’s terrible for you.
And, there’s a whole section on this in my book, but today, I want to share some thoughts on what you should know about the most common “healthy” labels on packaged food …
Labels that are specifically meant to mislead you.
As far as the USDA and the FDA are concerned, “natural” means nothing. They haven’t defined it … and since it’s not regulated, anyone can use it on their packaging.
And even though “natural” sounds healthy – it doesn’t need to be. Sugar can be natural. So can wheat. So can arsenic, for that matter.
Now, that doesn’t mean you SHOULDN’T buy foods with the “natural” label. But you SHOULD read the packaging first, to make sure you’re buying food that’s not loaded with sugars, lectins, or unhealthy fats.
I like organic food – in fact, I love organic food. But that doesn’t mean all organic food is good for you.
Organic cows and chickens can be fed organic corn and wheat – which are designed to fatten them – and you – up.
And complete junk food can be organic, too. Just take a look at the organic section of your local store. You’ll see organic cookies, organic ice cream, even organic potato chips.
It may have a fancy label, and cost twice as much, but junk food is still junk – organic or not.
3. Heart healthy
As a cardiac surgeon, this is my biggest pet peeve. You see, the FDA certifies food as heart healthy – foods it wants you to eat – and eat a lot of.
Let me put it this way. Froot Loops – and other super-sweet sugary cereals, are certified ‘heart healthy.’ Avocado, salmon, and nuts are not.
The heart healthy label has very little to do with what’s actually healthy. But it’s got a lot to do with what the food industry wants you to spend your money on – things like sugar, wheat, and corn.
So don’t look for the “heart healthy” label when shopping. Instead, look for real foods that are proven to boost heart health – foods rich in Omega 3s and polyphenols, for instance.
Ok, let me be clear – there are some people who NEED to look for the “gluten-free” label for health reasons.
But “gluten-free” doesn’t mean healthy. In a lot of instances, “gluten-free” foods actually have more lectins than foods with gluten, because they’re made with rice, corn, and lots of sugar.
So when you’re shopping, don’t automatically assume that “gluten-free” is good for you – or that it means lectin-free. Instead, read those ingredient labels CAREFULLY.
5. Free Range
You’ve probably seen the “free range” label on eggs, poultry, and even meat.
But here’s the low-down about “free range” – it basically means nothing. It’s got zero to do with how animals live – or what they eat.
In fact, it’s completely legal to cram animals full of corn, soy, and wheat, and to keep them in overcrowded, dangerously cramped quarters and still call them “free range” – as long as they have access to a small patch of grass for at least 5 minutes a day.
So instead of “free range,” look for pasture raised or wild meat and seafood – those animals were raised the way nature intended … and had the opportunity to eat the way nature intended.
That means they had a better quality of life – and are better for your health, too.
Labels are meant to mislead you and make you think the foods you’re putting in your shopping cart are healthy. That way, you buy more.
So don’t get sucked in by flashy marketing. Instead, read ingredient lists thoroughly and do your research … it’s the best way to protect your health!
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