Ever been perplexed by packaging that screams out a plethora of wordy adjectives such as ‘LOCAL ARTISAN PRODUCE’ or ‘ORGANIC CAGE-FREE CHICKEN’? Yep, we’ve all been there.
Here’s how you can debunk some of the biggest buzzwords on the supermarket shelves. Even if you think you know it all, trust me, some of them are bound to surprise you…
7 Health Food Buzzwords You Need to Know
Travel to any ‘hip’ part of town and you’re bound to see a blackboard brandishing the word ‘artisanal’ to describe its main dish. So, what does it mean? Artisanal actually relates to food which is ‘produced in limited batches in a traditional way’. This means no bread machines, just gentle kneading with the hands; no deliveries of frozen food, just one in-house chef who does it all themselves. It is the latter which suggests a lot of supermarket bought products claiming ‘artisanal’ are actually no more niche than a McDonald’s Big Mac.
We all know organic food is more expensive that ordinary food, but what else does it mean for consumers? Well, there are a lot of regulations that producers need to meet before they can be ‘certified organic’.
Beef, for instance, needs to come from cows which have spent at least four months per year grazing in pastures without any chemical fertiliser, GMO seeds, etc. and the cows are no treated with any hormones or antibiotics. Winning! Similarly, organic plants cannot use synthetic fertilisers or GMO organisms to accelerate growth.
The result of buying organic produce is a 50 per cent increase of omega-3 fatty acids (when compared to non-organic produce) and more antioxidants per consumption.
Just as any food marketing professional can call their produce ‘natural’, seemingly anyone can label a product a ‘superfood’. Often associated with nutrient-dense foods with special properties, such as blueberries (antioxidants) and chia seeds (omega 3), the term ‘superfood’ is still, unfortunately, a marketing term and hasn’t yet been regulated.
This is one term which very few people are unaware of what it means – so well done you for coming across this article. Sugar-free, after all, infers there is no sugar in the food you’re eating, right? Wrong. ‘Sugar-free’ basically means there is no refined cane sugar only. Other forms of sweetener, such as agave syrup, honey, brown rice syrup (which is as bad as HFCS) are all a-okay to be labelled ‘sugar-free’. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Especially when you consider that many of these sweeteners are worse for you than regular table sugar, you’d be right to be shocked.
Free-range and Cage-free
‘Free-range’ might have you thinking of chickens running free, but that often is not the case. Unfortunately, ‘free-range’ often means the barn has a door for the chickens to get out, although they rarely use it. ‘Cage-free’, on the other hand, means the chickens are still locked in a barn, they’re just not confined within a cage. Instead they’re packed in like sardines with no access to the outdoors. Try pasture-raised meat or organic eggs if you’re concerned about chicken welfare.
‘Local’ is a term which has now, thankfully, been regulated. If you spot ‘local’ or ‘locally-produced’ on packaging you can be sure that the product hasn’t travelled more than a distance of 400 miles from its origin. Okay, 400 miles is a long-ass way, although manufacturers often list the place of origin so you can get an idea of just how ‘local’ your food really is.
If, like me, you actively seek out foods labelled ‘multigrain’ then you may want to read this. Upon hearing the word ‘multigrain’ you might expect the majority of the product to contain, well, grains. But in actual fact, this term is taken literally by manufacturers, and simply means ‘there are multiple grains present, regardless of amount’. This means you could have a multigrain bread which contains only 0.1 per cent of four different types of grain. It’s worth keeping an eye out for in the ingredients list if you’re dubious.