Is that ‘health’ product really healthy?


So often as humans, we want to trust. Trust in ourselves and others, and trust brands that we have come to depend on to feed us and our families. Brands we trust with our well-being, our health and our money. But, as the old saying goes, information is power.

We have all told someone at some point in our lives our “version” of the truth, usually a harmless stretch of facts, carefully moulded to serve a purpose. It all seems pretty innocent right? That is until it comes to what we put into our shopping trolleys and on into our bodies.

“Can you really trust those food labels”?

The “version” of the truth that is everywhere in food labelling today is (I think), harder to solve than a Rubik’s cube, even if you gave me a thousand hours and instructions on how to defeat that multi coloured cube of torture. Actually the only way I’ve ever solved that thing is by removing the coloured stickers and placing them in their place alongside their same-ly coloured brethren. Sadly, I can’t use the same work-around with food, I need to dig deeper, ask questions, doubt everything until I know for sure what I am eating is what I’m told I’m eating.

Just like Scully and Mulder said, the truth IS out there, you just need to put on your detective hat to find it. Unless you purchase it in it’s original and whole form (think fruit and veg that still looks like it’s come from the tree or the ground), it’s most likely been processed to some degree. Generally speaking, once a food is put through a process it is stripped of some or most of its natural benefits usually because that will cause them to lose their “vitality” or shelf life quicker. Food also needs to be transported and stored, this means things like fibre are taken out, if it wasn’t the food wouldn’t last as long, but they could always add in a synthetic fibre to make up for taking out the real thing, that way it can be labelled “added fibre” and we choose it thinking it’s good for us.

Watch that sugar intake.

Then we come to the 3 musketeers, Sugar, Salt and Fat. Omnipresent in almost every packaged food imaginable and certainly all Fast-Food, they have a mysterious way to manipulate our resolve and then all of a sudden we’re elbow deep in a bag of chips, face-planting a pizza or asking who broke in and ate all the Tim-Tams because it could not possibly have been me 🙂 These three miracle ingredients are masters of disguise. Sugar has over 20 different variants and will often appear under these different names on the same product so as to appear not to have as much sugar. Another wonderful trick is with something called High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

Just like it sounds, it is from corn and is almost twice as sweet as regular table sugar but much cheaper, therefore bigger profits. So a product can claim to have 25% less sugar in it, you think to yourself, that’s a better choice right? The only thing is it contains HFCS so whilst technically true, it is just as sweet and just as bad for you and leads you to want more sweet things, it tricks the brain into wanting to always up the ante on sweet rewards.

Where a product claims to have reduced one of this trio, they have almost surely upped the value of one of the others to make up for it. We need to remember, food companies are just that, companies. They have executives and shareholders and need to turn a profit and how to do that? Keep us buying their product by making it so delicious or convenient that we feel we can’t do without it. Win-win right?

Avacado is a great source of good fat.

Long have we been told fat is the biggest enemy to our waistline and overall health but we now know that this is a myth. Good fats (extra virgin olive oil, nuts, oily fish and avocado to name a few) are essential to our overall condition. Our bodies need fat, that’s a fact but choose wisely. Things like “light” olive oil, we assume are targeted at those who may be conscious about calories but beware, some of these oils have gone through a process with the remainder of the olive that has already been pressed and processed with solvents, doesn’t really sound like a healthier choice does it? And sometimes they are simply referring to the lighter taste or colour but we assume it’s always about the calorie load.

I think one of the worst diseases we have these days is that of comparison-itis. This is a game we never win and as women, one of the most harmful to our well-being. Food plays a part here. The imagery we are “fed” about what success looks like when talking about food choices, preparation and consumption.

How we look compared to someone else in a bikini, or jeans, or shorts, the list goes on. How we fuel our precious bodies forms part of how we regard ourselves, in all our glory and no matter what size. Eating your way to a calm, confident person comes when you know the truth of what we are being sold as “healthy” food choices. Your greatest armoury is information, it is your offence and your defence.

So, go gently with yourself, you are not alone and nothing is too big a task when broken down into small enough pieces.