By Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist
Health claims are in the hot seat causing us to pause and look at the true definitions of common ingredient or nutrition related terms we use everyday. Many are not what they seem. And some don’t mean anything at all.
Recently, the term “natural” was called into question by Consumer Reports. With roughly 60% of Americans surveyed looking for “natural” on the label when shopping, knowing exactly what that means is paramount.
When we see “natural” we think the food is nutritionally superior; free of hormones, additives, artificial ingredients, preservatives, GMOs, colors, etc. And a great choice for someone pursing a healthy lifestyle or for growing kids.
Sadly, this isn’t actually the case. In fact, according to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA)’s Center for Science and Nutrition; the agency charged with regulating health claims and food labels, there is no definition for “natural.” Despite a lack of definition or endorsement of the term, they don’t object to its use with foods free of artificial flavors, added colors or synthetic compounds.
More concerning, officials admit the inherent issue with evaluating processed foods with the lens of a term like natural, “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth.”
All the more reason to be your own advocate and seek out the ingredient list on packaged foods with a critical eye. And to make most of your meals and snacks at home! Like fresh juices made with just veggies and fruits straight from the earth…Doesn’t get any more natural than that!