The “Whole Grain” Label Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

With so much emphasis on eating healthy, and the buzz word, “natural”, many food manufacturers are labeling their foods with all kinds of health claims to make the consumer believe they are purchasing healthy food.  Often times, though, the food is not very healthy at all, and worse, can be quite misleading.

I was recently in the grocery store and was comparing two brands of bread crumbs.  With concern over refined carbohydrates, we are all looking for more whole grains in our diets.  Food manufacturers know this and use this to their advantage.  They will take a refined product and put whole wheat into it (or make it with whole wheat), so they can trick you into thinking you are purchasing a whole grain product, when in fact you are still purchasing the same refined starchy food.

An example would be when I compared a name-brand bread crumb product claiming to be “100% whole wheat bread crumbs” and the store brand regular Italian seasoned bread crumbs.  As a consumer who didn’t know better, you might think the 100% whole wheat bread crumbs were a better choice, but look closer….

The one on the left is the 100% whole wheat bread crumbs and the one on the right is the Italian bread crumbs.  Notice a few things…

1.  The whole wheat has 1 g more of fiber (big woop!), but a serving is also larger.  So in fact, both products have the same fiber (give or take a micro-ounce).

2.  Both products have a long list of ingredients (not usually the sign of a healthy, natural, food) with many oils, sugars, flours, and preservatives.

3.  Both products have closely the same amount of sugar, fat, and calories.

4.  The whole wheat product has almost twice the amount of sodium (from preservative most likely.) Not a good way to get your sodium.

5.  The Italian crumbs have more vitamins than the whole wheat (either way, they are enriched, however).

Considering that the main reason you would buy a “non-refined” grain is to get the natural fibers, minerals, and vitamins, there is really no point in spending the extra money on the so-called 100% whole wheat product since you are still getting the same refined grain (just at a higher cost).

Don’t be fooled by labels.  In fact, try buying more food that doesn’t even have a label!

About Kimberly Dawson, M.S.

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