DECODING NUTRITION BUZZWORDS

Food manufacturers use a variety of buzzwords on their food labels.

Marketing leads us to believe all of these buzzwords = "HEALTHY”


But do they really?


Often these buzzwords have no scientific-basis, are not regulated by the FDA/USDA and/or have NOTHING to do with the healthfulness of a food.


Here's what these words really mean (or don't mean).

It’s “organic” so it’s healthy


What it really means:

Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are not given antibiotics or hormones


Organic plant foods are produced only with fungicides, pesticides, & herbicides the USDA deems as safe.


"Organic" relates only to how the food is produced and does not automatically make it any more "healthy" than non-organic options

It’s “all-natural” so it’s healthy


What it really means:

This is not an FDA or USDA-regulated term.


No formal definition exists.


However, it generally means the food contains no added color, artificial flavor, or synthetic ingredients.

It’s “sugar-free” so it’s healthy


What it really means:

The product contains <0.5g sugar per serving.


However, it can still be a highly processed food item and contain artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols.


Also, sugar isn't evil. Plenty of health-promoting foods contain sugar: fruit, whole grains, milk, honey...

It’s “pasture-raised” so it’s healthy


What it really means:

Technically made up by food manufacturers and does not require any 3rd party verification or inspection.


Pasture-raised animals don't necessarily spend their entire lives in a pasture, either.


"Pasture-raised" MAY indicate an animal is treated more humanely, but doesn't make a food more/less healthy.

It’s “a superfood” so it’s healthy


What it really means:

Typically a "superfood" refers to a nutrient-dense food that is thought to have additional health-promoting benefits.


However, this is another made up marketing term with little scientific-basis.

It’s “gluten-free” so it’s healthy


What it really means:

Simply that the food item does not contain gluten, a protein found in cereal grains/wheat that helps the food to maintain its shape.


Individuals with celiac are allergic to gluten. Certain individuals MAY also be gluten sensitive.


If you've not been diagnosed with a gluten allergy or sensitivity, this buzzword is irrelevant to you.

It’s “paleo” so it’s healthy


What it really means:

A paleo diet is one that eliminates dairy, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), grains, potatoes, and refined sugars.


A "Paleo" food label simply means the food item doesn't include any of the above ingredients, all of which (besides refined sugars) have health promoting benefits.

It’s “vegan” so it’s healthy


What it really means:

Vegan is a form of vegetarianism that excludes eggs, meat, dairy, and other animal-based products.


People may choose to be vegan for religious or ethical reasons.


A vegan diet can still fall on a spectrum of more/less health promoting.

It’s “dairy-free” so it’s healthy


What it really means:

The food contains no milk, yogurt, cheese, or butter.


Certain individuals may be allergic or sensitive to milk or dairy foods.


However, dairy foods contain nutrients that are part of a healthful diet.

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© 2020 by Jessica Isaacs, RD