Here is how to decipher the labels of food products and make the right choice at the supermarket for your health by thwarting the traps of manufacturers.
Table of Contents
Know Where Your Priorities Are
How do you choose between seemingly similar foods? Read the label and choose in order:
- The product is made with “natural” ingredients that you may have at home (flour rather than modified starch, eggs rather than egg yolks. or powdered egg whites, whole milk rather than milk powder or milk proteins, sugar rather than glucose syrup, etc.)
- The one with the shortest list of ingredients (the one with the least colourings, flavors, stabilizers, gelling agents, etc.)
- The one with the least added sugar (sucrose, glucose, fructose, inverted sugar, glucose-fructose syrup, etc.)
- The one whose fats are of better quality: olive or rapeseed, preferably.
- The least caloric.
- The one that contains the most fiber (whole grains rather than refined, higher fruit or vegetable content).
- The one that does not contain not the additives you want to avoid.
Locate The Position Of The Ingredients In The List
The position of the ingredient in the list is important. Glucose-fructose syrup is thus found in almost all products. Locate it on the label: if it is number 2 in product A, prefer product B, number 7.
But Don’t Be Fooled!
Since the main ingredient must appear first, there is a strong temptation for the manufacturer to modify the product’s composition so that the first ingredient appears healthier than the second.
Thus, in the case of a cake where the first ingredient is sugar, the manufacturer can replace part of the sugar with glucose-fructose syrup. Result: the flour appears first. To get an idea of the added sugar content of such a product, it would therefore be necessary to identify all the sugars in the list: sugar, glucose-fructose syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, honey, fructose, lactose, etc.
Beware Of Low-Fat Products
To replace the fats often removed from these products, manufacturers are quick to use multiple additives and various ingredients such as starches which give consistency to the products but are sometimes even less good for the line than the fats they replace!
Beware Of Fake Good Properties
Adding vitamins or minerals is aberrant when the product is visibly bad for your health, for example, when it is too sweet. So beware of details that divert attention from the poor qualities of a product or which, to consume magnesium, makes you swallow more calories. Same thing for ultra-processed products that highlight that they are organic, such as chicken nuggets. Organic or not, they should be considered foods to be consumed only occasionally.
Vitamins And Minerals: Yes, But
Certain foods enriched with vitamins and minerals may be of interest. But beware: very often, added vitamins and minerals are a sign of a mediocre product, which the manufacturer is trying to present in a better light. In addition, one must be vigilant with the micronutrients that are added:
- Vitamin D: foods enriched with vitamin D provide minute quantities, which have little benefit for health;
- Iron: many foods (especially breakfast cereals) are fortified with iron. This iron will likely react with other nutrients and damage cells and tissues. Better to give a child food that naturally contains iron, such as meat or fish. As for men and postmenopausal women, the iron in fortified foods is useless because the needs are low and covered by the normal diet.