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Last week, we talked about how some seemingly easy-to-understand words were being stretched too far, things like “all natural,” “high protein,” “zero trans fat,” and “low carb.”  Unfortunately, Brown Baggers, there are more buzz words to be wary of, so get ready.

It seems like the words “sugar free” and “no sugar added” would be good things, right?  It would seem so because we could all watch our sugar intake more closely, right?  Sure, but unfortunately sugar free and no sugar added usually mean that artificial sweeteners and/or man-made sugar alcohols were added instead.  Artificial sweeteners can adversely affect the digestive systems of people with sensitive stomachs and have a host of other negative attributes to boot, so adding them to your food instead of sugar isn’t the healthiest idea.  Stick with natural sugar, or better yet natural sweeteners like honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup (to name a few), and just cut down on your sugar intake.

Think foods that say “high fiber” will give you that boost in fighting heart disease and keeping the digestive system moving?  They might, but the side effects might not be what you’re looking for.  Most of the time, foods with added fiber are using chicory root fiber, polydextrose, and oat fiber, or what are called “functional fibers,”  which are actually fibers, but they may make you bloated and gassy and don’t have the same full effects as those fibers which occur naturally in food.  If you just make sure to work in your fruits, veggies, beans and whole grains every day, you’ll more than likely get plenty of fiber without “adding.”

Gluten-free is very important to people with Celiac disease or wheat/gluten allergy, but others have taken up the banner of the gluten-free diet as well, and so market shelves all over are full of foods proclaiming that they are gluten free.  And guess what?  They are!  By law, foods that are labeled “gluten free” may not contain any gluten or wheat, so in this case, you’re getting just what you’re told.  What they don’t tell you is that what these foods lack in gluten, they make up for in calories.  You’d do better to get your gluten-free foods the natural way—by eating foods like, rice, sweet potatoes and quinoa (to name a few) that naturally contain no gluten.

What can you take away from all of this?  Be wary.  Read labels.  Most importantly, if you only want to eat food that is what it purports to be, then stick to the basics:  fruits, veggies, nuts, fish, poultry, etc.  For the healthiest diet, keep your processed foods to a minimum.  Come see us at Brown Bag for breakfast or lunch or both!  When you eat with us, you always get just what you asked for!

Published June 13, 2013