Can I trust food labels?

The food labels on the products that we find in the supermarket include valuable nutritional information. However, the problem usually lies in the indecipherable ingredients, behind which certain types of unhealthy components are hidden.
Can I trust food labels?

Last update: 24 September, 2018

We all know the importance of reading food labels in order to understand a product’s ingredients. Equally to understand the fat, sugar, and sodium content. However, we also need to be aware that sometimes, the information provided, isn’t always reliable. So, should we trust food labels or not? Let’s delve into this subject further and see.

What do food labels tell us?

The square box located on the back of food packaging contains very important information. What’s more, all consumers should be aware of this.

It’s recommended that we read food labels, even if we aren’t doctors, nutritionists, or scientists.

These labels include relevant data, such as the amount of fats, sugars, sodium, carbohydrates, and fiber that the food in question may contain. They also inform us about ingredients that can generate different types of allergies (such as dairy or gluten) and the calories that are provided by each portion.

Additionally, these labels contain expiration dates, preservation methods, and any ingredients used, such as preservatives, additives, flavorings, etc.

Should I trust food labels or not?

Read food labels.

Not all consumers read food labels, which is one of the reasons why we eat pretty much anything, without being completely aware of what’s in our food. Not paying attention to this information could potentially give manufacturers a free reign over not informing us quite as well as they should.

For example, a product’s colorful packaging may state that it’s, “Made with olive oil.” However, after reading the nutrition label, you may learn that the percentage of this ingredient is negligible–less than 2 percent.

Other times, the packaging may read as, “Made with vegetable oil.” Or, even made with, “Vegetable fat”. Oftentimes the food label does not specify whether this oil or fat, is derived from coconut or palm oils. This is important because both of these products are rich in saturated acids, and are less healthy than olive or sunflower oils.

We’re also often deceived by the main labels, that may claim that the product doesn’t contain dyes and preservatives. If we pay close attention, we’ll notice the famous, monosodium glutamate, a chemical additive that enhances flavor. While it’s not considered a dye or preservative, it’s no less harmful to our health.

There’s a simple rule that we can use when we shop. If we intend to eat healthily and, of course, avoid certain health related issues, it is useful to remember that the more ingredients with strange sounding names, the more artificial the food. This rule does not fail.

Pay particular attention to food labels that list more than five ingredients. This is because they contain high amounts of salt, sugar, fats, preservatives, and artificial additives. Above all, these ingredients usually relate to an unhealthy product, if they are impossible to read, decipher or understand!

Sugar as a hidden ingredient

There are many hidden ingredients in food products, that for obvious health reasons, aren’t always immediately clear. One of these is sugar. A project called reveals the amount of glucose contained in the foods that we regularly consume.

It’s always interesting to see a printed column of sugar cubes on the side of a product, as this indicates the amount of glucose found in it. This is even the case for salty products! For instance, a natural yogurt with strawberry jam, contains around seven sugar cubes, where a donut contains nine. If each sugar cube weighs around 2.3 grams, then just imagine how much extra sugar you’re consuming with these products!

Sugar is disguised under several names and often, we can’t find this easily on food labels. Some of these alternative names include: glucose, syrup, dextrose and corn starch. Ultimately, they’re all one and the same, and consuming too much can lead to serious health problems.

In short, it’s not so much about buying processed foods or believing that by consuming we will become sick; it’s about being more aware of the food that we feed to our families. Remember that in the world of marketing, not everything is what it seems.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.