The Importance of Reading Food Labels

Have you ever noticed the “cage-free” label on a carton of eggs and wondered about the meaning behind such a label? Students in the nursing nutrition class at Platt College OKC North were asked this question by nutrition expert, Jessica Cox at Natural Grocers and the answers may not have been exactly what you think.

While most people are taught to look at calories and fat on food labels, Jessica introduced them to some more important items to look for on the food label. “Most nutrition classes focus too much on numbers and not enough on quality,” said Ms. Cox. Jessica mentioned important information about clever marketing terms that really don’t mean much about the food, but make you believe it must be better.

The first one Jessica mentioned was, “All Natural”.  It’s a clever marketing term that has nothing to do with how the animal was raised. Natural on a food package means minimally processed, which is a loose definition in itself.

Why should you care how an animal was raised? Because you don’t just eat the animal product, you also eat what the animal ate. For example, consider the class of food additives known as growth promoters. There are four common growth promoters used to fatten animals up.   This gets them to market faster and allows more production of meat and milk. The four common growth promoters our students learned about are:

  • Antibiotics
  • Asthma Medication
  • Growth Hormones
  • Arsenic based growth promoters

Antibiotics are put into the animal feed and water in order to make the animal grow faster. 70% of all antibiotics sold in the USA go to agriculture.  This practice has created an abundance of antibiotic resistant bacteria. There is currently research going on around the country linking bacteria from meat in the grocery store to antibiotic resistant bacteria found in infections of patients in hospitals. Cox recommended getting clean sources of meat, raised without growth promoters like antibiotics, for better immunity and overall health.

If you are looking to improve your health by reading food labels, I recommend beginning with the ingredients part of the label and focusing less on the numbers. Here are some key bullet points to help you choose wisely according to the list of ingredients:

  • It should be short – the fewer ingredients the better
  • Sugar should be at the bottom of the list, if there at all
  • If you can’t pronounce it or if it looks like some weird chemical, it probably is, skip it.
  • Purchase USDA organic and Non-GMO verified whenever possible
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners

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Dr. April Morford has been an adjunct instructor at Platt OKC North for the past six years. She loves educating the students on “real nutrition”, so that they can enhance their lives, their family’s lives and their patient’s lives through healthy eating.

Natural Grocers can be found all across the country and are a great resource for nutritional information. They have learning kitchens in every store because they believe that knowledge is power. They staff nutritional health coaches for you to have free health sessions and classes to learn more. They take pride in purchasing the cleanest products possible, which makes finding healthy products much easier. Find a store near you at www.naturalgrocers.com.

Our students were talking about this class trip for weeks. Natural Grocers and Jessica Cox gave them a gift of a free Vitamin Bible and delicious Grass-Fed yogurt. It was truly a wonderful, eye-opening experience for everyone.

Written by: Dr. April Morford, Instructor – Platt College OKC North

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