The other day I was at the grocery store when a woman was defending her “all natural, low-glycemic index snacks” to her friend. She swore by this “super healthy” food as a part of her quest to lose some pounds.

The food industry likes us to believe their marketing messages. Do we really know what “all natural” means? What about the glycemic index? Does organic always mean healthy?


Here are some of the things that the researchers tells us:

a)    People who ate cookies labeled as “organic” believed that their snack contained 40% fewer calories than the same cookies that had no label in a finding presented in an Experimental Biology Conference.

b)    When people consumed a large item that was label “small,” they felt less guilty, according to the Journal of Consumer Research.

c)    Perception of portion size increases as pack increases, according to the European Food Information Council.

d)    Not eating the recommended serving size is one of the most common mistakes people make when reading labels, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Label confusion

It’s important to know these facts before your next stop at the grocery shop:

a)    Be cautious about the terms natural, organic and healthy. They all mean something different. Something can be natural and/or organic but not necessarily healthy.

Natural: This term applies broadly to foods that are minimally processed and free of synthetic preservatives. Most foods labeled natural are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and heath codes that apply to all foods.

Organic: This term refers not only to the food itself, but also to how it was produced. Foods labeled organic must meet or exceed the regulations of the National Organic Program, which took effect October 21, 2002. They must be grown and processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources and promote bio-diversity.

Healthy: A food that is low in fat and saturated fat and that contains limited amounts of cholesterol and sodium. If it is a single-item food, it must also provide at least 10 percent of one or more of vitamins A or C, iron, calcium, protein, or fiber, as noted on However, keep in mind that sugar content is not among the considerations. Nowadays, we know that high sugar intake is linked to high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, obesity among other chronic inflammatory conditions.

b)    There’s no regulation for the term glycemic index.

c)    The term “superfood” is also not regulated.

d)    There are some products labeled “fat free” or “sugar free,” but they never had fat or sugar in the first place.

e)    When products are “sugar free” they could be loaded with fat and those labeled fat free could have added sugars. In both cases, they can be high in sodium.

f)      Trans fat has been linked to raising cholesterol levels and increasing risk of heart disease.  Many stick margarines and butter, cookies, crackers, and fried foods still contain trans fat. Read labels carefully because they still can contain small amounts of hydrogenated oils.

g)    Fortified food was inversely associated with intake of vegetables and fruit, meat and alternatives, milk products, according to a study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

What to look for?

In general, keep in mind this:

a)    Check how many servings are in the container.

b)    How many calories are in the single serving? According to the General Guide to Calories 40 calories is low, 100 moderate and 400 calories is high. However, take into consideration that these are general guidelines. This will vary according to the individual’s needs and lifestyle.

c)    The Percent Daily Value (%DV) helps you determine if a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient. Less than 5% is “low” in the nutrient (good for saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar). 10-19% is a “good source” (good for fiber, protein, some healthy fats and whole-grain carbs). Over 20% is “high” in a given nutrient (some vitamins and minerals).

d)    Check the ingredients: Ingredients are listed in the order of how much (by weight) is in the food with the first ingredient having the most.

Next time you go to the supermarket, take this list to help you overcome the label puzzles.

Here are few of the products that I’m sure that one way or another you’ve come across with or even worst have bought it thinking that you were doing a favor to your waist and health.

The product label includes the nutrient claim, “excellent source of Omega-3+,” which has not been approved for use on food products.












What does superfood really mean?










Made with Organic wheat. This is not more than made with white flour. It can be organic but it’s not whole wheat, which means means that the entire wheat berry is used.












Low glycemic index (30). What does this mean to you?