What’s the Definition of Healthy?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is caught in a debate over what most consider an outdated definition of the term “healthy.” The current requirements for a food product to legally use the term on packaging was crafted in the 1990’s when healthcare practitioners were focused on the amount of fat in foods as the biggest threat to health. As a result, natural and fresh foods like salmon and avocados could not put “healthy” on their labels while some sugary cereals and puddings which contained no fat could. No one made the effort or took the time to change this odd set of circumstances until the makers of a new snack bar called Kind wanted to use the term on its products made of all natural foods.

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Kind Foods couldn’t use the word “healthy” on its snack bars because of high fat content. Also avocados and salmon couldn’t be labeled with the term. But some processed foods such as puddings and cereals could. The FDA is rethinking its requirements for calling a food healthy.

Many of the Kind bars contain a lot of nuts which are high in fat and that put them above the allowed amount of fat in the FDA’s definition of a healthy food. But with the latest nutrition research showing that it wasn’t necessarily the amount of fat in our diets but the kind of fats, the makers of Kind thought the definition needed updating. But rather than fight the FDA on their own, they turned to the public through a petition that got the attention of the officials at the FDA.

In response, the FDA allowed Kind to begin using the phrase “tasty and healthy” again on its packaging, but only as a company slogan and not as a direct reference to the product inside. But the FDA also decided it was time to consider updating its definition of healthy and for the past six months has been soliciting comments and opinions from nutritional experts, organizations and consumers as to what the new definition should contain. The allotted time for comments ended this week and now the FDA must get down to sorting through them to make their decision.

Not surprisingly, these interested parties could not all agree on a new standard. And even within some of the organizations they couldn’t come to a mutual understanding for a definition. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said that in the comments they gave the FDA this week that could not recommend an effective legal definition for the term “healthy.” The Center for Science in the Public Interest told the FDA in their input that they are concerned defining and allowing “healthy” to be used on packaging and in marketing may encourage people to choose processed foods over fresh fruit and vegetables and other natural foods on the grocery shelf. They do not want to see marketers misleading consumers with terms that are too nebulous.

In the end consumers need to be educated about what are the best foods for good health. They need to be savvy to avoid the tricks of marketers and the claims on packaging. Fortunately there is more and more good information as nutrition experts and researchers continue to show that fresh, natural foods and less processed packaged foods in our diets are key to keeping us “healthy.” Stay tuned to Produce Buzz as we highlight these findings on a weekly basis.

What’s the Definition of Healthy?

Want to Lose Weight and Feel Better? Then Ditch the Fad Diets

The secret to weight loss and healthy diet is that there is no secret. Your mother’s advice, “Eat Your Vegetables!” is still the predominant wisdom when it comes to eating right. There’s no magic weight-loss pill or new undiscovered combination of superfoods that will replace her emotional plea. The latest research continues to point out that the way to good health and long life is eating lots of fresh foods, that is, fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains and leafy greens.

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In a new study by the American College of Cardiology, in which they surveyed some of the latest and most popular nutrition fads, including juicing, gluten-free diets and antioxidant pills, the scholars determined that most of the claims of the promoters of these ideas for nutrition are unsubstantiated.

Here are some of the key myths they addressed in their report:

  • Eggs and cholesterol: Although a U.S. government report issued in 2015 dropped specific recommendations about upper limits for cholesterol consumption, the review concludes, “it remains prudent to advise patients to significantly limit intake of dietary cholesterol in the form of eggs or any high cholesterol foods to as little as possible.”
  • Vegetable oils: According to the authors, coconut oil and palm oil should be discouraged due to limited data supporting routine use. The most heart-healthy oil is olive oil, though perhaps in moderation as it is still higher calorie, research suggests.
  • Berries and antioxidant supplementation: Fruits and vegetables are the healthiest and most beneficial source of antioxidants to reduce heart disease risk, the review explains. There is no compelling evidence adding high-dose antioxidant dietary supplements benefits heart health.
  • Nuts: Nuts can be part of a heart-healthy diet. But beware of consuming too many, because nuts are high in calories, said the authors.
  • Juicing:The authors explain that while the fruits and vegetables contained in juices are heart-healthy, the process of juicing concentrates calories, which makes it is much easier to ingest too many. Eating whole fruits and vegetables is preferred, with juicing primarily reserved for situations when daily intake of vegetables and fruits is inadequate. If you do juice, avoid adding extra sugar by putting in honey, to minimize calories.
  • Gluten: People who have celiac disease or other gluten sensitivity must avoid gluten – wheat, barley and rye. For patients who don’t have any gluten sensitivities, many of the claims for health benefits of a gluten-free diet are unsubstantiated, the authors conclude.

Food is the most important factor in ensuring good health and our best medicine. And fresh foods are the key part of that medicine cabinet. Produce Buzz was created to help spread this message far and wide. We are joining the crusade that has been going on in the nutritional and medical communities for a long time.

But still research shows that only a small percentage of people around the world get the recommended amount of fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. Please join us and bookmark the Produce Buzz Website and follow us in all of our social media channels.

And join in the conversation by sharing your favorite recipes, farmer’s markets finds and gardening triumphs. Welcome to the community!

 

 

Want to Lose Weight and Feel Better? Then Ditch the Fad Diets

Are “Superfoods” Really Super?

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If you want to get your daily does of unscientific diversity of opinion (and who doesn’t crave that on a regular basis?), type into a search engine the phrase “top ten superfoods.” And for real kicks, do the search in the engine’s images side of things. You will quickly get a visual of the ever-expanding list of foods that are supposed to provide exceptional nutritional value or magically cure some ailment. And you will also quickly see that no two lists are the same. So what about these claims? Are they scientific or just hype from marketing pros?

Several authoritative organizations have weighed in on this question. The American Heart Association gives a thumbs up to certain foods that have been making a lot of the “Top Ten Superfoods” lists. But they are quick to point out that none of these foods by themselves are panaceas nor are they sufficient on their own to provide all the nutrients, dietary needs or prevention that a well-balanced and diverse diet does. In an article on the AMA site titled, “What’s So Super About Superfoods,” they spoke to Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, a registered dietitian and professor at Penn State University who says that” most myths about super foods are perpetuated by marketing efforts…which is why most nutrition experts prefer not to use the term.”

Kris-Etherton went on to tell the AMA that, “A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about these foods, thinking they’ll be protected from chronic diseases and health problems. They may eat one or two of these nutrient-dense foods on top of a poor diet. Eating too much of one type of food may prevent you from getting the nutrients you need.”

The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) cautions on their Website that, “The term ‘superfood’ has become a popular buzzword in the language of food and health. However, there is no technical definition of the word and the scientific evidence for the health effects of these foods — while often positive — does not necessarily apply to real diets.” The article concludes that a diet based on a variety of nutritious foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, remains the best way to ensure a balanced nutrient intake for optimal health.

The EUFIC seems to have found the original use of the word “superfood” in a Jamaican publication from 1915. But an article on MSN.com credits the author of an early 1990’s cookbook as the first to popularize the term. They point out that this author Michael Van Straten is now dismayed at how the term has been over applied in our current day. Van Straten advocated in very general terms that a diet rich in ruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts “supply the vital bricks that build your body’s resistance to stress, disease, and infection.” MSN.com also notes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has of yet, not attempted to regulate the term superfood.

Many other reasonable voices in the media, nutritional and health sciences have spoken out cautioning against identifying certain foods as superfoods. In most every instance they advise a wide range of fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains along with healthy proteins as the best way to ensure your diet is “super.”

 

 

Are “Superfoods” Really Super?