Ask a Nutritionist: Translating Diet Marketing Terms
I may have mentioned this before but a lot of the nutrition industry is kind of a scam. Marketers, junk food companies, and pseudo-experts peddle placebos at best to outright dangerous dietary advice at worst. It comes from the need for a quick fix combined with a poor body image. An image that is perpetuated by the media we consume. This problem is so prevalent, that we are as unhealthy as we have ever been as a nation. So, what can we do to live our healthiest lives? We educate ourselves with accurate information. And the best thing to do is to recognize the intent of companies that are marketing their products as healthy.
So, this nutritionist will translate and comment on the terms that often throw the public for a loop.
This is one of the things that has been common for packaging over the last 30 years is the term “fat-free”. You can find the term on top of things like pre-packaged snacks. While a lot of people have gotten wise to this particular term, some of them often forget the implications behind “fat-free”. This is succinctly put by thespruceeats.com, “Something that most people seem to forget is that fat-free does not mean calorie-free, carbohydrate-free, or preservative-free. What some fat-free products lack in fat, they make up for in sugars and other unhealthy additives”. Also, the application of the term could only apply to the serving. If one cookie has a negligible amount of fat, if you eat seven of them, then you are probably eating enough for there to be fat in it.
The term sugar-free oftentimes means that the natural sugar that would be in a recipe is replaced with an artificial sweetener. While people are making an effort to cut down on the sugar, we still don’t know the long term effects of how artificial sweeteners affect the body. You are better off decreasing sugar altogether and indulging very sparsely on the real thing.
This is a more recent diet fad that has come in light of the discovery of gluten sensitivities and allergies. While celiac disease and other related gluten allergies are certainly problematic, it affects a whopping 1% of the American population. Out of 327 million Americans, only 3 million have are legitimately allergic to gluten. Statistically, this is not as large as the number of people who believe they have that sensitivity. While it is important that some companies are mindful of them in general, it isn’t as widespread as people believe.
The Natural Movement
This movement is old enough to be prevalent since the 1960s when certain groups were worried about the implications of pesticides in gardening. The term these days is a catch-all buzzword for things that are food without excess chemicals. But just because something is organic, that does not mean its always healthy. You can eat organic ice cream but its still ice cream. If you only focus on the term ‘organic’ without looking at nutrition implications, then you won’t live a healthier life by much.
Just like organic, the idea of something being natural is assumed to be healthy. But that kind of assumption, when consumers are not careful, just leads to cognitive dissonance. After all, sumac is technically natural but it is deadly to us. Sugar is natural too, and if it is in food stuff, chances are it isn’t all that healthy. Too much sea salt will cause sodium problems. See, what I mean? While you may be more likely to choose something naturally made, you still should still be wary of nutrition in general.
Over Powered Nutrition
Doesn’t it sound like something that belongs to a comic book? Joking aside, the term itself is not something official. This is a product of pure marketing and is a huge issue when it comes to dietary supplements and specific ingredients. Our bodies are far too complicated to simply react to one type of food. It needs a balanced diet with multiple elements involved. There is no cure-all food that will suddenly change how your body works. It takes consistent effort and balanced nutrition to lose weight and live a healthy life.
Both terms are abused quite often to satisfy the demand of foods that contain both. While both of them are important for a healthy diet, I must reiterate that our bodies are complicated. We need a balanced diet with all of these things to live as our best selves. Eating enough vegetables and the occasional fermented food is more than enough to get what your body needs.
If you have any questions about nutrition, you can always ask a nutritionist. They are more educated on the subject and can look through all the garbage. Call Bekah if you are serious about coming up with a diet plan.