You are what you eat; at least that’s what our parents said. So does that mean that we are Glycyrrhizin or Acesulfame? Well it must be because most of us eat it (and lots of it) and are eating more and more each year. Chemicals, fillers, preservatives, sweeteners, and artificial flavourings are more prevalent in today’s supermarket than ever before. Even though most of our traditional foods like breads, milk, fruit, grains, etc. look the same as they did 50 years ago, they are not even close to being the same chemically, genetically or even taste they same.
Our healthy green light flickers on when we see “sugar free,” “fat free” or “calorie reduced” on labels and good on you for being health conscious. However, the grocery and food industry knows that you are trying to make a healthy choice and they are implementing their marketing plan to take advantage of those exact thoughts and feelings. We always tend to think on the side of optimism when it comes to the food market; there is a weird aura of trust surrounding the food industry for a few reasons (looks the same, smells the same and it’s a necessity – so it must be still good, right?). Wrong. Fact is that the food industry is same as any industry out there; they want to sell you more and cut back their costs. It is simple economics and they aren’t super heroes – always trying to do the right thing regardless. Every brand and manufacturer in the food industry is trying to get ahead of the other and gain and target more customers. They know what you want, when you want it and how you’re going to get it.
This is where the truth hurts.
In our local grocery stores you can usually find many manufacturers of the same type of food (like cereals, soups, etc.). They are fiercely competing for your purchase and they will do almost anything to get it. Food companies are trying to be the lowest sugar cereal, lowest sodium soup and the brightest and juiciest apples. Unfortunately, many brands tend to forget about the consumer’s health and think more about their profits.
These brands are trying to get the edge on their competitors and want to target you emotionally and subconsciously. The large companies know that you are going to buy the lowest calorie bread slices and will do anything to offer it to you, even if that’s changing the chemical and genetic makeup of the food. When you have to take something out such as fat, carbs or sodium, you most often have to put something back in to make it cook the same, be just as sweet or just as tasty. This is where artificial sweeteners, preservatives, chemicals and fillers come in. To make this even worse, the manufacturers and brands try and hide these additives (they are doing a good job by the way) and simply mislead you into thinking that it is the same product as before but just healthier and right up your alley (and into your wallet).
The way we usually check our foods before we buy them is to glance down at the nutrition label/chart and skim across the fat, carbs and calorie sections. If it looks good from there we usually don’t dive in any deeper and consider it a win for our mid-section and a win for fitting into our skinny jeans. However, since most of these chemicals don’t fit into the ‘fat’, ‘carb’ or ‘calorie’ categories they don’t have to put it into the label.
This is where we need to realize that our choices have tremendous power on the food industry. If we simply ignore these additives and buy the product anyway we are reinforcing the marketing tactics and processing procedures of those brands. We need to really commit to ourselves, to our health and be very stringent when making our choices. Again, it’s simple economics – supply is relative to demand. They will put things on the shelf that we demand, whether it’s good or bad for us it doesn’t matter they will give us what we want to buy.
In conclusion, do not be a victim to deception. All the low fat, low sodium and sugar-free products are causing consumers to add unwanted pounds. Just because it says what we want does not mean that it is good for us. It is up to us to make the choice and to reshuffle the supermarket the way we want. We have a tremendous amount of power in our purchases and we can set trends in motion more than we think. So, make sure that you are taking the time now and checking labels so you don’t have to take time later in trying to lose the weight or cleanse your body.
Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer. He can be reached at 403-347-1707 or check out www.360fitness.ca for more information.