When “Free” Isn’t Free.
“Fat free!” “Sugar free!” ”Gluten free!”
We see these claims in bold letters on many of our packaged food products. They let us know that something we may not want is not in that box or container. But what does it actually mean when something is “free” of something?
Let’s look at a few things labeled as “FREE.” (Spoiler alert! If the label tells you how healthy the food inside is, don’t believe it!)
“Fat free” means that any semblance of natural fat has been removed from a food. Milk is a typical example of this. For the past 70 years or so, we’ve been told that fat is “bad;” that it makes us fat and it gives us heart disease. Thankfully, today we are understanding very clearly that this is not the case. Fat is an important macronutrient that is essential for many of the functions of our body, including hormone production and function, brain and heart function, and even the very lining of every cell that makes up our body.
In food production, when one thing is removed, it needs to be replaced with something else to give that food a better taste and/or consistency. If you grew up drinking whole milk but then switched to skim milk (or even 1%), you probably had to go through an adjustment period because the version without fat was really watery. You may have noticed that it was sweeter, too. More like sugar-water than milk. That’s because, when fat is removed from dairy, it actually becomes more of a carbohydrate than a balanced food of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
Have you seen the jugs of skim milk letting you know that the milk within is “fortified” with vitamin D? Maybe you have a jug of it in your fridge right now. Go check the label. If you drink fat-free (aka “skim”) milk fortified with Vitamin D, there are 2 important things to recognize -1) the version of Vitamin D your milk is “fortified” with is likely synthetic – your body cannot utilize it. And 2) even if your body could utilize the “fortified” version, Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which means that it required fat to be properly absorbed and utilized in the body! Essentially, you are flushing that Vitamin D down the drain. Whole milk, especially if it is from grass-fed cows, has all the macro and micronutrients intact, including the fat soluble vitamins that are already a part of that whole food. And because that naturally occurring fat has not been removed, it is also more nutrient-dense, much tastier, and a slower, more efficient source of fuel for your body than the watery “sugar milk” that we are told is good for us.
Now let’s look at the term “Sugar Free.” We all know that sugar isn’t good for us, right? So it makes sense to remove it from foods. Remember, if one thing is taken out, it must be replaced by something – or at least a different version of that something.
Did you know that there are over 600,000 processed foods on the market today (that’s 600,000 more than there were just 150 years ago!!!). Of those 600,000 processed foods, over 80% have added sugar in them! And we wonder why we are having health crises in epic proportions?! At last count, there are over 80 different names for sugar that food manufacturers use to make us think a product contains less sugar than it does. Any word that is labeled as a “___ malt”, “___ juice”, “___ syrup” or with words ending in”ose” (like lactose, or fructose) or ”tol” (like sorbitol or xylitol) are all different forms of sugar. Pretty sneaky, huh? Manufacturers can get away with this because of loopholes (that they created) in labeling practices.
Become a Label Detective to truly understand what it is you are putting in your body.
“Gluten-free” is a big buzz word these days. It has become more and more apparent that the protein gluten, which is found in wheat and other grains, is truly causing a myriad of health problems for people. It can also be argued that the process of growing/harvesting wheat, and the chemical preservatives used are a big part of the problem. Some, with a true allergy to gluten (called celiac disease), must abstain from gluten in all forms at all costs. The new label, “Gluten-free” on the one hand, makes it easy to see what products should be avoided, but on the other hand, opens up a whole new mess of chemicals and ingredients added to foods that have no business inside a body.
So what can you do?
BECOME A LABEL DETECTIVE
When you become a true label detective, it will become more and more apparent that the words used on food products have more to do with marketing to get you to buy those products than they do with any possible health benefit of those products. When you stick to REAL FOOD, you know what you are getting. A head of lettuce doesn’t need a label. It is naturally gluten free, fat free and sugar free. So when you want to be “free” of something in a food, reach for an actual food (not a food product in a box). Your body will thank you!
When choosing a food with a label, try to stick to the “5 and 5” Rule:
Want to learn more about a real food lifestyle? Visit our website and click on Find a Class. In our classes, you will benefit from REAL FOOD, REAL LEARNING, AND REAL SUPPORT from our licensed Instructors. Do it for YOU!