Yesterday, I wrote about the ambiguous nature of one word: sugar. The food industry and well meaning mainstream nutritionists have succeeded in confusing us. Is sugar good? Is it bad? I spend loads of time helping clients understand the distinctions between the sugar found in carrots and how that is completely different from the crystalline fructose (a fancy word for corn syrup) found in Vitamin Water.
There are so many words on food labels and in advertising that are, quite frankly, completely dangerous. We read them and fall into a consensus trance, believing that these products are actually good for us. When working with middle school students, I often encourage them to go on a “health claim hunt” in their kitchen cabinets at home. They bring back some pretty outrageous marketing gimmicks. Here’s a few:
- Contains antioxidants
- Made with whole grains
- May lower cholesterol
- No trans fat
- Fat free
- Strengthens your immune system
“The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed.” – Joseph Goebbels
It may be a bit upsetting to see me quoting a Nazi about lies, but in most cases when you see a health claim, its because the product has some dirty secrets. Let me show you a few examples.
Eco friendly water bottles that use 30% less plastic than other bottles are still plastic bottles that leach questionable chemicals into your drink. Not to mention that the source of that water might not be as pristine as you’d like to think! No way no how is bottled water eco-friendly. Watch Tapped to learn more.
Builds immunity Are you kidding me? This one takes the cake! Sugar laden cereals like this one actually can work to deplete your child’s immunity. Sugar is an anti-nutrient. In addition to the spray on vitamins (which supposedly boost your kid’s immunity) this cereal contains hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil. You already know how I feel about cotton! The one word banner on this one should be Hazardous.
No Trans Fat is one of those phrases that puts us at ease. Sadly many many products boasting no trans fat are lying. There is a “loophole”: food packagers are allowed to round transfat measurements down to the nearest gram. And of course, they play games with serving size. In addition to sneaking in hydrogenated oils, manufacturers will put in palm oil which does not contain trans fat but this ingredient has a devastating effect on rainforests. In the long run, Palm Oil is more dangerous to our future than just about any other hazardous ingredient I rant about. No doubt you’ve read my piece about how the Girl Scouts should re-think their toxic cookie campaigns.
What to do? As Michael Pollan says, avoid food products that make health claims. We must take the time and buy real food, not foodlike products. In the long run, you’ll save money, your health and the planet. The three products I showed above have a huge carbon footprint and probably use more fossil fuels than your car does. Pay your local farmer, not your doctor. Take the time, cook from scratch. Eat food you can believe in. Don’t pay good money for lies.