Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Have You Seen These Label Claims?

Today's Dietitian has really been making me happy lately. They recently posted a fabulous article, which talked about label claims. Here are some terms you may have wondered about at one time or another;

1) "Made with expeller-pressed oil"; this means the oil was extracted from its source (typically a nut or seed) by a crushing mechanism, as apposed to a chemical method, which typically uses hexane to chemically extract the oil. Hexane is a petrochemical that is apparently used also for paint diluent. Yuck!

2) "Stoneground wheat flour" or "100% stoneground wheat"
Similar to the term "natural" there really isn't a legal definition for this term. Stoneground wheat is supposedly created by grinding flour solely in stone mills, as apposed to the more commercial method of using a roller mill. Since there is no legal definition for this term companies can claim their product contains "stoneground wheat flour" even if it has only gone through the stone mill once, then was completed using a roller mill. Tricky.

Stoneground wheat is meant to sound less processed, similar to "steel cut oats", which are oats that have been cut rather than rolled. Are they any better for you? In my opinion not really. They may contain a bit more protein and soluble fiber, but I've found that this really depends on the brand.

3) "X grams of whole grains per serving".
Ok...so what? This means nothing to those who don't know how many grams of whole grains they need each day. There are 16 grams of whole grains per serving of whole grain, and we need three servings per day. So that means we need a minimum of about 48 grams of whole grains each day. If a product claims to have "8 grams of whole grains per serving", that's half of a full serving of whole grains (eight grams is half of sixteen), and about one-sixth of your daily needs (eight is one-sixth of forty-eight).

These chips provide a little over a serving of whole grain, in one serving of the chips.

4) "High in antioxidants". This is the one that gets to me the most. Have you ever picked up a snack bar or a sugary cereal and seen this claim loud and clear on the box? Vitamins A, C, and E are all antioxidants, which just so happen to be added to most processed foods. Because of this, many processed foods make the claim that they "contain antioxidants" or are "high in antioxidants". It's not a lie, but are these products the best way to get antioxidants? Not at all! Antioxidants work synergistically with other compounds in the food (many times phytonutrients, or plant nutrients), which is what gives them their disease-fighting potential. In these highly processed cereals, snack bars, and even juices, those phytonutrients are typically non-existent, therefore there is no synergism potential.

The best way to get antioxidants is from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, not a snack bar that has had them added, and especially not from a supplement that supplies you a mega dose of antioxidants.

Wild rice contains vitamin E, which is a very powerful antioxidant. Scientists haven't even figured out half of the phytonutrients in whole grains, which may be working with vitamin E to help it provide its vast array of benefits to our bodies.

The same is true when it comes to fruits, vegetables, and fish. We know about many of the healthy components, but not all. There is a symbiotic relationships going on here that you simply can't mimic with fortified foods and supplements.

Including fortified foods, vitamin water, and multivitamins with >>100% of the daily value (DV) of several antioxidants is not in anyone's best interest. Consuming all these antioxidants from unnatural sources can in fact create a pro-oxidant situation in your body. To read more about this I highly suggest reading the book Superfoods Rx by Steven Pratt, MD and Kathy Matthews (see the link on my Amazon Widget to the right).

Want to read more about label claims? Check out some of my past posts;

Probiotic label claims

Food and Supplement Label Claims

Demystifying Label Claims

Thanks for reading!

BTW, don't forget to enter my giveaway, which ends on Saturday!


  1. wow, excellent post Gina!! so true about #3, just wondering then - would you suggest paying more attention to the daily % on the label, or is that number too general?

  2. great info Gina. I learned so much in this post! the only thing that wasn't new for me is the added antioxidant. such a big lie isn't it? and yes, the # of whole grains per serving is not very informative.
    need to get some wild rice :)

  3. Thanks for the informative post. I am always very wary of "natural" foods and "high in antioxidants" unless it is an actual piece of fruit or vegetable.

    I didn't realize the whole grain info - thanks for sharing!

  4. I try to read the nutrition facts as much as possible and stay clear from making my purchases based on what appears on the front of the package. But marketers are clever people, eh?

  5. Very good information!! I've wondered about the whole grains grams thing!

  6. Great post! I definitely want to check out that book. Today's Dietitian has been having some great articles lately.

  7. Definitely true that the best way to get your vitamins and antioxidants is from fruits and veggies and other whole foods! I do like steel cut oats, but really just for a change of pace due to their slightly chewier texture.

  8. Definitely true that the best way to get your vitamins and antioxidants is from fruits and veggies and other whole foods! I do like steel cut oats, but really just for a change of pace due to their slightly chewier texture.

  9. Thanks so much for this post! It has been extremely helpful!


  10. Great post! I find that if something is trying to convice me it is good for me, it probably isnt!

  11. Such a great post! I love coming to your blog because I feel like I am getting REAL facts, not just your opinion or what you think. You are truly helping me to figure out all the crazy labels and food signs out there!

  12. oh i friggn hate label claims! they get people all the time. one of my favorites is the fake fiber addition that people fall for all the time like "this product has 5,000 grams of fiber" and everyone gets excited and they're like frozen bagel bites haha

    hope you're loving your job!! give a life update soon :)

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  14. OMG, too funny that you wrote about this! I read the article as well and thought...this would be a perfect post! Glad you got it covered! I actually was glad for clarification about the expellar oil!!

  15. Great Post! Very informative, especially the whole grain thing. I always wondered about that.

  16. Great post! I am really turned off by all the "label claims." That's why I try to buy/cook as many things without labels as possible...

  17. this is really interesting and helpful. Thanks for sharing! Now I have reference to think back to when I see the 'whole grains per serving' label!

  18. Thanks for good stuff

  19. Thanks for good stuff

  20. good read, post more!