According to the dictionary, the word “natural” means “having undergone little or no processing and containing no chemical additives.” But when it comes to seeing the word “natural” on a food label, the definition gets much murkier — so much so, in fact, that the FDA (which is currently reviewing the term and how it can define and regulate it) has recently extended its public comment period on the meaning of this word until May 10, 2016.
In this week’s news: Having an off-again-on-again relationship with bread; debating the meaning of “natural” food; and naming as many Dr. Oz diet catchphrases as possible (it’s a “miracle!”).
Hold the Gluten — or Make it Artisanal
Only about one percent of the population has celiac disease, about six percent are gluten-intolerant and, according to recent research, those who have gluten sensitivity may have another problem altogether. Nevertheless, more than a quarter of Americans say they’re cutting down on or eliminating gluten. In light of this, you might be surprised to learn that whole-grain bread is starting to get a lot of ink. Food world luminaries such as Michael Pollan are increasingly speaking up about the benefits of artisanal bread products and, this summer alone, carb lovers can look forward to meetings like the “Kneading Conference” (from the Maine Grain Institute) and “Grain Gathering” (brought to you by the Bread Lab in Washington State). Yet don’t judge a book by its cover (or a grain by its husk?). The bread/no-gluten trend might not be as discordant as it appears. Most of the flour in commercially sold foods is white — made from grains that have been refined to remove the nutrient-rich germ and bran. What’s left is something called endosperm, a tissue that happens to house the plant’s gluten supply. Eat white flour, and you’re essentially mainlining gluten. Whole wheat, on the other hand, is rich in not just nutrients, but also a number of proteins that seem to temper the gut irritation people complain they feel when they eat gluten. This means that, at least for non-celiacs, whole-wheat bread may offer a way to have your bread and eat it too.
Pass the Cocktail Nuts
A recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine (and reported by the New York Times) looked at data from over 119,000 women and men in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Researchers found that study participants who ate nuts seven or more times a week had a 20% lower death rate than those who didn’t eat nuts over the same period of time. Even for those who only ate nuts less than once a week, the death rate was 11% lower. Participants ate a variety of nuts including pistachios, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pecans, pine nuts, peanuts, walnuts and macadamias.
Many folks read food labels to gain better insight on the foods they choose. However, with so many claims plastered on labels, things can get really confusing. Even worse, food companies use these claims to push certain products and make you think they’re healthier than they really are. We’ve rounded up the top 10 food label boobie traps.
You see it on everything from juice drinks and packages of meat, to boxes of cereal and bottles of vitamins. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the word “natural.” You might be surprised to learn what this term really means.
Food labels have been around for decades, and every day they get more and more complicated. Here’s the lowdown on some popular eco-friendly terms and what they mean, if anything.