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Food Is Not Just the Sum of Its Nutrients; It Is Time to Rethink Nutrition Labeling

An international panel of nutrition experts has concluded that it’s high time we labeled foods for what they are as a whole, rather than what you get in individual nutrients. For example, cheese as a whole does not have the effect on cholesterol that you would expect by looking solely at its saturated fat content, the University of Copenhagen reports. The panel suggested that nutrition science be more inclusive of how a food is consumed, and what is eaten with it.

How we label foods is an ongoing problem, from the various names that ingredients like sugar hide under to whether a food is actually organic or not. With sugar, manufacturers now use over 56 different names for sugar, meaning you almost have to be a scientist to know whether what you’re purchasing has sugar in it or not.

With organic foods, you have to be familiar with the certifications that true organic foods need to have in order to be labeled 100 percent organic, as sometimes it’s the origin of the product that makes the difference, rather than how they were grown. (Organic farms sometimes use natural pesticides to limit weeds or bugs.)

One way of avoiding having to sort out nutrition content is to not buy processed foods at all. Opt for fresh, whole, organically-certified fruits and vegetables, preferably raw, and free-ranging, grass fed meat, dairy and poultry products.

If you want to know which conventionally grown fruits and vegetables carry the greatest toxic load in terms of pesticides, the Environmental Working Group provides a list of the worst offenders, called the “Dirty Dozen.” These are among the most important foods to buy organic. If organic food where you live is simply unattainable, one way to minimize potential ill effects from eating heavily sprayed produce is to peel fruits and vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and pineapple, whenever possible.
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