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What Food Terms Really Mean

Posted Aug 25 2010 7:32am

In our last article , I alluded to a discussion of the words used in food advertisements. Although it will be inadequate, and I’m sure I will forget several terms, I will try to address the most commonly seen and used terms here.

Enriched – Doesn’t that just roll off the tongue? Enriched… Kinda sounds healthy, right? This gives the allusion that this particular food is rich with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. However, “enriched” actually means that the act of processing this food so stripped it of vitamins and minerals that it can no longer be considered food. Therefore, they have added back the bare minimum amount of synthetic isolates of vitamins and/or minerals in order to legally refer to it as “food.” Enriched merely means to replace portions of what was lost during the refining process (see below for “refined”).

Fortified – Ooooohhh… another great marketing word. This makes you think of the strength of fortification. If it’s fortified, it must be strong, eh? Not necessarily. Similar to “enriched,” fortified refers to adding things back in after you’ve stripped a thing of ingredients that qualify it as a food. The main difference is in the amount added back. With fortification, they add just a little more of a vitamin or mineral than was in the original item. For example (hypothetical numbers for illustration), if orange juice when initially in the orange contains 10 units of Vitamin C, yet has none after processing… if they add in 11 units of Ascorbic Acid (which is what the FDA considers “Vitamin C”), then it is considered “fortified.” What is left out of this equation is the fact that true Vitamin C contains from 30 to 50 different nutrients and enzymes and how they all work synergistically in addition to Ascorbic Acid. This is like giving someone an empty egg shell and telling them to make an omelet.

Hydrogenated – Hydrogenation is when they take naturally healthy oils such as palm, kernel, soybean, corn oil or coconut oil and they heat it anywhere from five hundred to one thousand degrees under several atmospheres of pressure. Then they inject what is usually a metal like nickel, platinum, or aluminum for several hours. As the metal bubbles up into the oil, the molecular structure of a once healthy oil is changed. This oil that use to have the potential to provide nutrients for your body is left in a state that is one molecule away from being plastic. Why would they do this, you ask? Money, of course! Hydrogenated oils make a great preservative because you have destroyed all enzymatic activity, therefore, products can sit on the shelf for years at a time. However, these new unhealthy oils are more solid and viscous which leads to thickening of the blood. This makes the heart work harder to pump the thicker fluid through your arteries. Also, evidence has suggested that the metals used as the catalyst end up scratching the insides of the arterial walls which leads to cholesterol build-up as the body attempts to heal the lining of the arteries. Cholesterol build-up, of course, means placques, blockage, and atherosclerosis… which, in turn, makes the heart work even harder… which leads to more irritation of the walls from the metals… which leads to… see where this is going?

Multi-grain/Stone Ground/”100% Wheat”/ Bran – Don’t be fooled. Grains are best ingested only when it is “Whole Grain.” Whole grain means that all three parts (bran, germ, & endosperm) are present. Whole grains are a good source of B vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron, and fiber, as well as other valuable antioxidants not found in some fruits and vegetables. Most of the antioxidants and vitamins are found in the germ and the bran of a grain. However, most flours are made with bleached endosperm only (meaning there is relatively no nutritional content). Now, this is important… if the packaging on the front says “Made with Whole Grain,” read the ingredients before buying it. Make sure the ingredient label lists unbleached whole grain flour as the ONLY flour. If it lists bleached flour and whole grain flour, then they’ve used 99% crap and 1% whole grain… just so they can claim it is made with whole grain flour.

Refined – Refined, huh? Does that mean this is only for upper crust palettes? No, of course not. Refined food is simply unnatural, highly processed slop that is generally very unhealthy. Refined food is the term for food that has gone through many processes to modify basic foods to improve the shelf life (time before it goes rotten), but also to change the way of storage (ie. longlife milk and juice that doesn’t need refrigeration) or to enhance flavor, color, etc. The additives and processes usually make the food very bad for you. Eating a diet high in refined foods can lead to undernourishment, fatigue and weight gain. This is because refined foods are processed so much that they are virtually devoid of vitamins or minerals. Refined foods are typically high in fat and calories, and eating them as the bulk of the diet causes the overall calorie count to rise. Refined sugars include sweet substances that have been processed and milled to the point that the sugar particles are extremely fine. When refined sugars are eaten, the sugars are able to quickly enter the blood stream. This can spike the blood sugar, causing the body to feel instantly energized. Unfortunately, the energy received from refined sugars is short-lived, and will cause a sudden energy drop shortly afterward. Refined flours have been milled so much that nearly all of the nutritional value has been lost. Many refined flours are fortified in order to compensate for the loss of vitamins and minerals. Refined flours are very fine in texture, and enter the blood stream as quickly as refined sugars, causing the same spike and drop in energy levels. Refined produce include vegetables and fruits that have been cooked to the point that most of the vitamins, fiber and minerals have been lost, and canned. Using canned vegetables and fruits in recipes and in meals will not nourish the body and will cause the body to not have enough fiber to maintain proper digestion. Eating a great deal of processed and refined vegetables and fruits can lead to malnutrition and constipation.

This discussion could literally go on for hours. We could discuss and define preservatives, additives, coloring, “spices,” monosodium glutamate (MSG), and on, and on, and on. However, let’s see if we can get a conversation going. In addition to our patients, we have people from around the world including many doctors that regularly read this blog. I’d like to get some participation on this subject, so jump in if you’ve got some info that will add to the discussion.

Doc

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