Will purchasing, “Natural” foods prevent disease? The answer is unknown since the term, “Natural” hasn’t specifically been defined by any government agency. If you are concerned about your health, and your wallet, you should be concerned about food labels and advertising.
No formal definition for the use of "natural" on food labels has been issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, "natural" claims have become common on new foods and beverages. FDA follows a 1993 policy that states:
[FDA] has not objected to the use of the term on food labels provided it is used in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and the product does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. Use of the term "natural" is not permitted in a product's ingredient list, with the exception of the phrase "natural flavorings."
USDA allows the use of the term "natural" to be used in meat and poultry labeling on products that contain no artificial ingredients or added color. The product also must be only minimally processed. The label must explain the use of the term natural, for example, no added coloring; minimally processed.
Food labels can be confusing. Advertisers and marketers want you to believe that their food is healthiest so you purchase more of it. Knowing how to decipher information is your best defense in sticking to a healthy diet.
For the health conscious consumer, advertising dollars are your nemesis. Looking at the big picture of an overall diet is what counts. One food cannot change your overall being.
Don’t get bogged down by advertising and marketing thrown out there to make you spend money. If you want to eat healthy, here are a few tips by the American Dietetic Association.
By choosing nutrient-rich foods that provide the most nutrients per calorie, you can build a healthier life and start down a path of health and wellness. Small steps can help you create healthy habits that will benefit your health now and for the rest of your life:
- Start each day with a healthy breakfast that includes whole grains and calcium-, vitamin D- and vitamin C-rich foods.
- Replace refined grains with whole grains and brown rice.
- Pre-washed salad greens and pre-cut vegetables make great quick meals or snacks.
- Choose fresh, whole fruit for snacks and desserts.
- Don’t forget beans, which are rich in Fiber, Folate and Flavanoids, they are a good non animal source of protein.
Shari Portnoy MPH, RD, LD/N, is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She holds degrees in both Nutrition and Public Health and has completed the U.S. Food Laws course at the Michigan State University Institute for Food Laws and Regulations.