Are food labels reliable?

April 03, 2009

The newspaper headlines scared me to death.  Many labels on our food items are in fact hiding their phosphorus content!!!

We look at the food labels mainly for the nutritional facts of the food before we buy it. We try to find an answer for our eternal question: Is this healthy?

Food labels help us to know the common name of the product,  the portion size, the list of the ingredients and the calorie information. In short, when we buy something which we think is healthy we are totally placing our faith on the food label. By reading the food labels we decide what is healthy and nutritious for us and how much of that food should we include in our daily diet. Those who are under medications, diet control weight loss programs, suffering from illnesses and those who are health conscious live completely by the food labels.

What is so scary about the newspaper headline?

The news was from the researchers of MetroHealth Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. They claim that a large number of processed and fast foods hide information about phosphorus additives, which can have fatal health effects if consumed more than needed.

Phosphorus exists in the form of phosphates in our environment and is a dietary requirement as they are a component of DNA materials in the human body. And we need at least 800 mg of phosphate a day in our daily diet. It becomes potentially harmful in excess as it can cause kidney damage and osteoporosis leading to weakened bones.

Some food items like cheese, sausages and hams have added phosphates in them. So too some of the processed foods that we relish contain phosphate additives. They appear in the form of sodium phosphate or pyrophosphate which is supplemented to beverages, meats and baked goods to increase their shelf life. But they are not labeled on the back of these products. Fast foods also have phosphates which are not made known to the consumers. It is important for the kidney patients to watch over their phosphorus intake. Unlabeled phosphates makes it impossible for them to control their phosphate consumption.

If you want to avoid high phosphate consumption you should shun these:

1.    Soft drinks and sodas. Beware of Cola and Pepsi.
2.    Processed meats
3.    Bakery items including cookies and cakes
4.    Tomato ketchup
5.    Mayonnaise
6.    Fish fingers
7.    Processed cheese, especially soft cheese spread
8.    Frozen pizzas

Eat these in moderate quantities or as per the recommendation of your doctor.

a.    Egg yolks
b.    Milk
c.    Nuts
d.    Wheat germ
e.    Soy products
f.    Veggies like beans, peas, lentils, mushrooms and corn.
g.    Oats

Now that you know this, think twice before you open a soda can!

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