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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Are healthy sounding food terms misleading?

  • People who are trying to be healthy may look for words like "whole grain" and "gluten-free" on food labels. But, some researchers say, those labels may be misleading.

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  • People who are trying to be healthy may look for words like “whole grain” and “gluten-free” on food labels. But, some researchers say, those labels may be misleading.
    How powerful can buzzwords on food packaging be? Researchers from the University of Houston asked consumers to link foods that use terms like “antioxidant,” “whole grain,” and “all natural” with overall health. They determined that these terms may be lulling consumers into a false sense of health. Even with the list of ingredients on the back, the data shows that consumers were likely to be taken in by buzzword marketing.
    Dietician Breanne Nalder says instead of looking at the front of the box, people should look at the back. “Look at the nutrition label and the ingredient list. The fewer ingredients in a product, the better,” she says.
    Nalder has seen many people eat more than they should while thinking the thing they were eating was healthy for them. She adds, “’Sugar free' and 'fat free’ can be very misleading because what they use in place of sugar or fat, for a lot of foods, are chemicals and fake things as fillers.”
    Even though these phrases and buzzwords are used by manufacturers to capitalize on popular food trends, not all are bad. For instance, the gluten-free lifestyle is becoming more popular across the country. Gluten-free food was created so people who are allergic to that protein could have more dietary options. Even people without Celiac disease are getting rid of gluten.
    Living gluten-free eliminates many things from a person’s diet, making them more prone to eat fruits and vegetables. Adopting that kind of diet can make people healthier, but it’s not completely necessary for many people who decide to do it.
    “Just because something doesn’t have the gluten protein in it, that doesn’t mean it’s better for you," Nalder says. "A gluten-free cookie is not healthier, necessarily, than a regular cookie. It’s just using an alternative flour.”
    The trick is to find food that hasn’t been overly altered or processed. That’s when food it becomes unhealthy, Nalder says. “I think some better words to look for are ‘low fat’ or ‘no added sugar.’”
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