Recent studies show that an overwhelming percentage of the public still have a hard time understanding nutrition labels. This is particularly frustrating if your health depends on being certain that the products in your basket are really what you believe them to be.
For Adrenal Fatigue sufferers, or indeed anyone with a chronic health disorder, the issue of food labeling can be a minefield. Does a ‘low fat’ label mean that a product is healthy? What does the term ‘natural flavors’ really mean? And is organic food always a good thing?
The following tips should help you avoid falling for some of the common tricks that manufacturers use to make their products appear healthier than they really are. It may also provide some food for thought around which products are better for people with compromised adrenal function.
Low Fat Products
The issue around fat and its role in heart health has been a hot topic of debate for years, although a consensus is finally emerging that sugar is far more of a problem than fat ever was. However, many people still prefer to choose foods that are lower in fat. The low fat food industry knows this is big business, and manufacturers aren’t afraid to bend the rules if it results in higher sales.
The term “low fat” is defined by the FDA as a product that contains “3 g or less per RACC [Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed]” of fat. In other words, it has to contain less than 3 grams of fat per serving.
There’s a big problem with many of these ‘low fat‘ foods. When fat is removed, the flavor of the end product is greatly affected. To get around this issue, manufacturers often replace the fat content with sugar, or sugar variants like High Fructose Corn Syrup. This is bad news for the unsuspecting adrenal fatigue sufferer. Not only does sugar convert to fat in the body (weight can often be a problem for people with adrenal fatigue), it also creates an unwanted sugar spike that stresses the adrenals and HPA Axis.
For all of the above reasons, most people with adrenal exhaustion would be far better opting for the full fat version over the so called ‘low fat’ alternative.
Even food products labeled as “natural” may not be all that they appear. This is because the FDA doesn’t clearly define which foods can be classified as “natural” or otherwise. Natural foods may also contain preservatives such as sodium to preserve their shelf life. Provided any preservatives are from a natural source, this doesn’t affect any claims the manufacturer is allowed to make.
Another difficulty is that most consumers automatically equate the word natural with something that is healthy and nutritious. This clearly isn’t always the case. Some food producers might argue that high fructose corn syrup is a natural ingredient, but most health conscious individuals would beg to differ.
Another problem is the term ‘natural flavors’, which can include pretty much anything derived from a natural source. If you think that sounds OK, let me tell you about a food ingredient named castoreum. This flavoring comes from the European beaver, and it is extracted from a small sac found next to the beaver’s anus. It’s frequently used to flavor desserts and drinks, so you’ve almost certainly consumed some without knowing it!
Even though products labeled as organic may seem like they have the ultimate stamp of approval, as a consumer you should still take great care to read the label and be sure of what you’re buying. Organic chocolate cake is still organic chocolate cake, whichever way you look at it (try these coconut flour brownies instead). Don’t be tempted to dupe yourself into buying products that deep down you know are not a great choice for your health.
However, when it comes to products like meat and dairy this is a different story. FDA guidelines state that the term organic relates not just to the end product, but how the food was produced. This means that all animals reared organically must not be exposed to any genetically modified feed, antibiotics or hormones – which can only mean that this is a far better option when it comes to your health.
There’s only one real way to avoid falling into the food labeling marketing trap, and that’s to choose truly natural foods that come without a label. Choosing the right foods for adrenal fatigue will support your energy levels and get you back to perfect health
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is education about what you are eating and how you are living. In The Adrenal Fatigue Solution, we have included lots of valuable advice on which foods to eat, how to eat them, and how to turn them into delicious, healthy recipes.