Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Campaign to change nutrition labels
I'm glad that the nutrition label has had some changes. When I was little, it was hardly readable. Its nice they made the print larger, and that trans fats are added to the picture. However, I would change a few very important things.
First off, I now believe the most important thing on the label is not the nutrition facts chart at all but the ingredients listing! I think the main thing to ask before eating is: is this real food?
Second, calories is right at the top of the chart, but focusing too much on calories loses sight of the fact that the chemicals put into diet sodas and low-fat foods often makes us more prone to weight gain than the actual fat and sugar it replaces.
Then on the actual chart, I think the Total Fat section should be expanded to include:
Omega 6 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids and its component DHA (these are essential for brain function, and we have no clue how much we're getting- do they want to raise U.S. test scores, or what?) The ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s in our diet is very important. At the turn of the century, they were eating more correctly, at about a 1:2 ratio. That ratio today is about 1:46. Omega 3s can be found in coldwater fish, primarily, fish capsules (keep refrigerated), walnuts, flax, also in grass-fed red meats and cage-free vegetarian-fed hen eggs. If it were labeled, we'd all see where it is! It'd be nice if all meats were labeled, period, with nutrition facts, but expanded to include omega-3 measurements.
Trans fats should be in milligrams instead of grams so there's no more deceptive labeling and
conjugated linoleic acid could be on there, too.
And, very importantly, the amount of post-production free glutamic acid present (see MSG) should be labeled, in grams, to the third decimal place. See more on this issue at Natural Health Care Products. There are lots of health risks from MSG consumption, and we have no idea how much we're eating.
Maybe post-production lead and arsenic should be labeled, too. Of course, that probably varies in production from month to month.
GMO definitely should be on the label, as well as irradiation. I think that's a consumer's right, yet the producers have vehemently decided for us that its not necessary, to prevent consumers being scared off from their product. Seriously! Its all about the money! Besides, how many people read labels anyway? Chill! People will still eat it anyway, label or no label, sadly.
What really should be jumping out at us to buy at the grocery store (fruits and vegetables!) don't even generally have a nutrition label. I wonder if we'd be amazed at the nutrition found in them (or lack thereof by growing and shipping practices), and want to buy them all up. The way our labels are set up, it destroys all the benefits of fruits and veggies; for example, I have a plastic baggie sitting on the counter stating calories, serving size, carbohydrates, fat, protein, and sodium, of common fruits and vegetables. Looking at it, it just doesn't make sense. No wonder there's so much confusion about nutrition. If we're comparing only those four components it almost makes celery equal to a salty soup. Should I avoid avocados, pears, and bananas because they're highest in calories, and start eating lots of cabbage, iceburg lettuce, cucumbers, and cauliflower? Ridiculous. I realize our food labels make no sense.
Currently on the label are macronutrients which include protein, fats, carbohydrates, (and water), and then micronutrients, which are vitamins, minerals, (and good bacteria). Sometimes I look at labels, and wonder how I'm even getting any vitamins and minerals (except in the case of fortified foods). Isn't it crazy how the nutrients are almost always 0% or 2%? If you're real lucky it may have 4% or 6% daily value. (My applesauce had 100% vitamin C, which I was surprised of. Then, I switched brands and realized it was all just the ascorbic acid added; my applesauce now has just 4% DV vitamin C and 8% iron.) I also wonder if there is ever a >1% DV in a food, is it always on the label? (You know... how its common to skip most and just put Vitamins C, A, Iron, and calcium?)
Beyond this, though, (note: its just a fantasy) but there's even more to put on the nutrition label. Heard of phytonutrients? Bioflavinoids? Antioxidants? Enzymes? Coenzymes? Cofactors? Amino acids? There are even some healthy properties of our food that science doesn't even know what they are yet, just knows they're there.