by Senior Clinician Victoria Fisher
When I was a new client, changing to the Well of Life way of eating was a daunting task. I vividly remember spending three hours every time I went to the grocery store scouring the aisles, reading food labels, and trying to figure out what was Well-approved and what wasn’t. To say I was overwhelmed is a huge understatement.
I quickly learned that food labels can be quite misleading. I discovered that foods that I once thought were healthy were actually heavily processed and full of toxins. I realized that I had to be a savvy consumer, and I must learn all that I can about the food I consume and the products I use so that I know what’s going into my daughter’s, and my, body.
Being an educated consumer can take the fear out of shopping and reading labels. The more you know, the easier it is to purchase healthy foods for you and your family.
Terms/Phrases You Should Know
Fortified or Enriched – During processing or manufacturing, the inherent nutrients were stripped from the food, so synthetic replacements are added back in.
Natural – In the US, there is no regulation for use of this term. “Natural” only means that the manufacturer used a natural source for the product at some point.
No Added Sugar – A food may still be high in naturally-occurring sugar, or may have sugar substitutes/artificial sweeteners added.
Gluten-Free – The product cannot contain wheat, spelt, rye or barley. The food can still be made with refined grains, fats, and sugars. This term is largely considered a marketing ploy to coax people into thinking the products are healthier, thus spending more money.
Non-GMO – Ingredients are not genetically engineered. According the Non-GMO Project, “A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified using recombinant DNA methods (also called gene splicing), gene modification or transgenic technology. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.”
Organic – Foods cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics, genetically modified, irradiated, or grown using synthetic pesticides, chemicals, or sewage sludge. Animals must have access to outdoors and can only be fed with organic feed. To meet the USDA’s standards for organic, the company must be certified by a third party vendor. There are four types of organic labels:
- Some organic ingredients – products made with less than 70% organic ingredients can label individual ingredients as organic.
- Made with organic – at least 70% of the product’s ingredients are organic; the remaining 30% can be conventional but still must not be genetically engineered, irradiated, or grown with sewage sludge.
- Organic – 95% (or more) of the ingredients are organic and GMO-free; can have USDA Certified Organic label.
- 100% organic – all ingredients are completely organic (therefore GMO-free); can have USDA Certified Organic label.
Some Ingredients to Avoid
MSG – Monosodium glutamate is used as a flavor enhancer. Consumption of MSG has been linked to headache, flushing, sweating, facial pressure/tightness, numbness/tingling, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, and weakness. Here are the names for MSG in food:
- Glutamic acid
- Monopotassium glutamate or simply “glutamate”
- Yeast extract or yeast nutrient
- Hydrolyzed proteins (hydrolyzed vegetable protein, animal protein or plant protein)
- Soy protein isolate and soy protein concentrate
- Whey protein (whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate)
- Autolyzed plant protein
- Hydrolyzed oat flour
- Textured protein
- Caseinate (sodium caseinate and calcium caseinate)
- Natural flavorings or simply “flavoring”
- Enzyme modified
- Maltodextrin or malt extract
- Protein fortified
Processed sugar – Consumption of sugar, one of the most addictive substances on the planet, has been linked to depression, premature cellular aging, immune suppression, inflammatory conditions, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Here is an extensive list of the hidden names of sugar:
- Glucose solids
- Golden sugar
- Golden syrup
- Grape sugar
- High dextrose glucose
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Icing sugar
- Invert sugar
- Castor sugar
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Muscovado sugar
- Raw sugar
- Refiner’s syrup
- Rice syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Yellow sugar
- Diastatic malt
- Ethyl maltol
- Barley malt
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Buttered syrup
- Cane juice crystals
- Cane sugar
- Corn syrup
- Corn syrup solids
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Carob syrup
- Fruit juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
Sugar substitutes, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols – Many of these chemicals dull the taste buds, disrupt hunger signals, cause hormonal imbalances, cause overeating, increase risk of diabetes, pollute the water supply, and they are genetically modified.
- Saccharin (Sweet’n Low)
- Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- Isomalt (Palatinat)
- HSH Hydrogenated Starch Hydroslsates, Maltitol
Check out this website for more information on the dangers of artificial sweeteners.
Learning the different terms and phrases used in food product labeling will allow you to shop confidently while avoiding harmful ingredients. Now that you know more about deciphering food labels, you can conquer the grocery store! Happy shopping!
Victoria Fisher, RN, NTP
Victoria is an Associate Clinician at the Well of Life Center for Natural Health. The Well of Life Center is a holistic wellness center that specializes in nutrition, chiropractic, massage services, and more. Celebrating their 10th year in business, the Well of Life Center has locations in Doylestown, Bethlehem, and Ottsville, PA. For more information, please visit welloflifecenter.com
How to Read Food Labels
What is GMO
How to Decipher Confusing and Misleading Grocery Labels
The 16 Fake Sneaky Names Food Companies Use for MSG
Beware of These 55 Hidden Sugar Names
Trying to Lose Weight? Stay Away From Artificial Sweeteners