All they care about is profit and they seem willing to sacrifice even children’s health for their own monetary gain.
Here are the top 11 biggest lies of the junk food industry.
1. Low-Fat or Fat-Free
One of the side effects of the “war” on fat was a plethora of processed products with reduced amounts of fat.
These products typically have labels saying “low-fat,” “reduced fat” or “fat-free.”
The problem is that most of these products are not healthy at all.
Foods that have had the fat removed from them typically do not taste as good as the full-fat versions. Few people want to eat them.
For this reason, food producers load these products with added sugar and other additives (1).
It is now known that fat has been unfairly demonized while growing evidence has been revealing the dangers of added sugar.
What this means is that “low-fat” foods are usually much worse than their “regular” counterparts.
If a product has the words “low-fat” or anything similar on the label, it probably contains added sweeteners. Keep in mind that these processed foods are not necessarily a healthy choice.
2. Trans Fat-Free
Processed foods often have “trans fat-free” on the label. This doesn’t necessarily have to be true.
As long as a product contains fewer than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving, they are allowed to put this on the label (2).
Make sure to check the ingredients list. If the word “hydrogenated” appears anywhere on the label, then it contains trans fats.
It’s actually not uncommon to find hydrogenated fats in products that are labeled trans fat-free.
Avoid everything that contains the word “hydrogenated.” Food products labeled trans fat-free may actually contain up to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.
3. Includes Whole Grains
Over the past few decades, consumers have been led to believe that whole grains are among the healthiest foods they can eat.
I agree 100% that whole grains are better than refined grains, although there is no evidence that eating whole grains is healthier than no grains at all.
That said, processed foods like cereals often claim to include whole grains. The problem is that whole grains aren’t always “whole.” The grains have been pulverized into very fine flour (3, 4).
They may contain all the ingredients from the grain, but the resistance to quick digestion is lost and these grains might spike your blood sugar just as fast as their refined counterparts (5).
Plus, even if a product has small amounts of whole grains in it, chances are that it contains a ton of other very harmful ingredients like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
Most processed food products containing whole grains aren’t really “whole” — they’ve been pulverized into very fine flour and spike blood sugar levels just as fast as their refined counterparts.
Eating a gluten-free diet is very trendy these days.
Around 1.5% of Americans are currently eating gluten-free or actively trying to restrict gluten. One-third of those haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease (6).
Just so we’re clear, I fully support a gluten-free diet. There is evidence that in addition to full-blown celiac disease, a proportion of people may be sensitive to gluten or wheat.
However, processed products labeled as “gluten-free” and made to replace gluten-containing foods are generally not healthy. They are also much more expensive (7).
These foods are usually made from highly refined, high-glycemic starches, like corn starch, potato starch, and tapioca starch, and may also be loaded with sugar.
Eating gluten-free should be about ditching the refined cereals and replacing them with real, whole foods.
So-called “gluten-free” products are often loaded with unhealthy ingredients. Avoid them and eat real food instead.
5. Hidden Sugar
Unfortunately, most people don’t read ingredient lists before making a purchase.
But even for those who do, food manufacturers still have ways of disguising the true contents of their products (8).
On ingredient lists, the components are listed in descending order by amount. If you see sugar in the first few spots, then you know that the product is loaded with sugar.
However, food manufacturers often put different types of sugar in their products. A food may contain sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and evaporated cane juice, which are all different names for the exact same thing — sugar.
This way, they can have some other, healthier-sounding ingredient as number one on the list. Nevertheless, if you were to add up the amounts of these three different types of sugar, sugar would be at the top.
This is a clever way to mask the true amount of refined sugar in processed foods.
Here’s an article on the 56 most common names for sugar.
Make sure to check whether a product contains more than one type of sugar. If that’s the case, sugar may really be among the top ingredients.
6. Calories per Serving
The real calorie and sugar content of products are often hidden by saying that the product is more than one serving.
For example, a manufacturer can decide that a chocolate bar or soda bottle is two servings, even though most people don’t stop until they have finished the whole thing.
Food producers can use this to their advantage by saying their products contain only a certain amount of calories per serving.
When reading labels, check the number of servings the product contains. If it contains two servings and there are 200 calories per serving, then the entire thing is 400 calories.
For example, a 24-ounce (.7-liter) bottle of cola may contain 100 calories and 27 grams of sugar per serving. If the entire bottle contains three servings, the total amount is 300 calories and 81 grams of sugar.
I don’t know about you, but back in my cola-drinking days, I could easily down 24 ounces (or more) in one sitting.
Make sure to check the number of servings on a label. Multiply the total sugar and calorie content by the number of servings to find the true total amount.
Many processed foods have a flavor that sounds natural.
For example, orange-flavored Vitaminwater tastes like oranges. However, there are no actual oranges in there.
The sweet taste is coming from sugar and the orange flavor is coming from artificial chemicals.
Just because a product has the flavor of real food doesn’t mean that any of it is actually in there. Blueberry, strawberry, orange, etc. — these are often just chemicals designed to taste like the real thing.
Just because a product has the taste of some natural food does not mean that there is even the slightest trace of that food in the product.
8. Small Amounts of Healthy Ingredients
Processed products often list small amounts of ingredients that are commonly considered healthy.
This is purely a marketing trick. Usually, the amounts of these nutrients are negligible and do nothing to make up for the harmful effects of the other ingredients.
This way, clever marketers can fool parents into thinking they’re making healthy choices for themselves and their children.
Some examples of ingredients often added in tiny amounts and then displayed prominently on the packaging are omega-3s, antioxidants and whole grains.
Food manufacturers often put small amounts of healthy ingredients in their products to fool people into thinking that the products are healthy.
9. Hiding Controversial Ingredients
Many people claim to have adverse reactions to certain food ingredients and therefore choose to avoid them.
However, food manufacturers often hide these controversial ingredients by referring to them with technical names that people don’t know.
For example, in Europe MSG (monosodium glutamate) may be called E621 and carrageenan may be called E407.
The same can be said for many types of sugar, such as “evaporated cane juice” — it sounds natural, but it’s really just sugar.
Food manufacturers often hide the fact that their products contain controversial ingredients by calling them something else.
10. Low-Carb Junk Foods
Low-carb diets have been pretty popular for the past few decades.
Food manufacturers have caught up on the trend and started offered a variety of low-carb products.
The problem with these foods is the same as with the “low-fat” foods — that they’re not necessarily healthy.
These are usually processed junk foods filled with unhealthy ingredients. Look at the ingredients list for products like Atkins low-carb bars. This isn’t food!
There are also examples of low-carb loaves of bread and other replacement products that contain many more carbs than the label claims.
“Low-carb” products are often highly processed and made with very unhealthy ingredients.
11. “Organic” Unhealthy Ingredients
Although organic food can have some benefits, many food manufacturers use the word “organic” to mislead people.
For example, when you see “raw organic cane sugar” on an ingredient list, this is basically the exact same thing as regular table sugar.
Just because something is organic does not mean that it is healthy.
Many foods contain unhealthy ingredients that happen to be organic. This does not mean that they are any healthier than their non-organic counterparts.
The Bottom Line
Of course, it is best to just limit processed foods altogether and eat real, whole foods instead. That way, you don’t have to worry about labels and ingredient lists.
Real food doesn’t even need an ingredients list. Real food IS the ingredient.
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