Fitness Facts: Beware of 'natural' on label

Connie Colbert

By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic

In today’s world of advertising, it is important to read labels to understand ingredients and not only look for the word “Natural” to determine if the product is healthy.

Natural ingredients are often assumed to be safe and healthy by the public — possibly because most people think that “chemicals” are all synthesized in laboratories and natural ingredients do not even contain chemicals. This is not true. Many so-called chemicals are found naturally occurring in nature but can be very detrimental and unhealthy.

If you look around next time you are at grocery store, you will notice that all kinds of products are labeled as natural – from meat and sodas to cosmetics and washing powders.
That natural claim can be misleading.

For starters, not all natural ingredients are a healthy alternative. For instance, gelatin is natural but is made from the bones of livestock, citric acid is made from fungus fermentation and, to stretch this issue a little further, a poisonous mushroom is natural but in fact it might kill you.

My advice: The next time you are at the grocery store and are about to grab a product that is labeled “natural,” take a look at the ingredients list and check what the product is really made of.

In processed foods such as “natural” soda, you might find high fructose corn syrup – the same ingredient you’ll find in regular sodas. So why pay the extra money because of the “natural” claim?

Also, do not confuse Natural with Organic. You should never confuse natural products with organic ones. They might sit next to each other on the grocery store shelves, but they are not the same thing.

The organic label is the real deal. For a food to carry such a label, it should meet government standards. So if you are really into “natural” shopping, you should get legitimate organic products and ignore the rest.

As a rule of thumb, if the ingredient list is full of words that you cannot pronounce or the first three ingredients are something unhealthy, choose another alternative. In general, it is best to choose products with five ingredients or fewer. Also, look for hidden sugar such as sucrose, dextrose, fructose and any other “ose.”

For a more in-depth discussion on reading food labels, click here.

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