Why Label Reading is Not So Important
You may have heard health magazines and television shows recommending the importance of reading labels. Through reading labels, you can supposedly make healthier decisions because you can choose canned goods that are healthier for you.
But here’s an even better idea. Skip the canned (and packaged) food altogether and just go for fresh food.
Canned and boxed goods are not nearly as good for you as you might think. Even the supposedly healthy canned foods are filled with preservatives and ingredients that you probably wouldn’t want to eat if you realized what all they included.
It’s nothing new. “Health foods” aren’t necessarily good for you, and it’s important that you know how supposedly healthy foods can actually sabotage your efforts to be healthy.
Nasty Surprises in Canned Food
The first thing that you have to realize is that canned food is not nearly as healthy as fresh food. One of the more common ingredients in even supposedly healthy canned foods is bisphenol-A or BPA for short. This has appeared in all kinds of different canned goods. According to Discovery Health in “92 Percent of Canned Goods Contain Bisphenol-A,” this chemical is intended to actually preserve the contents, but it brings with it a multitude of health problems.
The biggest problems that stem from consuming foods with BPA are that BPA has been linked to increasing cancer risks and reproductive problems. The chemical interferes with the sexual hormones, making it difficult to lose weight and to function properly.
The National Resources Defense Council has gone before Congress to request greater regulation and reform to ensure that sufficient protections are established.
So far, efforts have been unsuccessful.
In its report to Congress, the National Resources Defense Council presented the names of the most risky canned foods and brands. Del Monte and Healthy Choice as well as Campbell’s were among the highest offenders. A single serving of Healthy Choice Chicken Soup has more than 130.4 ppb.
“No Silver Lining: An Investigation into Bisephenol-A in Canned Foods” warns that this is no laughing matter. A single serving far exceeds what the human body can safely process, though it takes repeated and regular consumption to begin showing negative effects.
But this report also warns that it is impossible to accurately predict how much BPA will be found in a single can or even what products will contain it as the amounts vary drastically and the averages are guesstimated on the low end to prevent overexaggeration.
An Overall Better Choice
The New York Times and Home Cooking at About.com both released stories that claimed fresh food is inferior or at least equal to canned foods. The crux of these claims was that the modern processing methods allow the fruits and vegetables to retain the majority of their nutrients while also providing a necessary element of convenience.
They also point out that eating canned food is probably better than indulging in fast food.
While there’s no question that enjoying a vegetable soup made with canned vegetables is likelier healthier than chomping down on a Big Mac, the fact remains that homegrown or otherwise fresh fruits and vegetables are significantly healthier.
Fit Day recognizes that fresh local grown vegetables are the healthiest of all. They warn though that fruits and vegetables purchased from large chain groceries may not be as fresh, and because they are not as fresh, they do not have as high a concentration of vitamins and minerals. However, even so, they are a superior choice canned and boxed foods.
So while you may be advised to read the labels, it actually isn’t going to help you be healthier. The only way to be healthier in your eating is to choose whole foods as much as possible. For the best results, eat local farm raised veggies.
“No Silver Lining: An Investigation into Bisephenol-A in Canned Foods,” National Workgroup for Safe Markets, http://ej4all.org/contaminatedwithoutconsent/downloads/NoSilverLining-Report.pdf (2010).
“Vitamins in Veggies: Fresh vs. Canned vs. Frozen,” Fit Day, http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/vitamins-minerals/vitamins-in-veggies-fresh-vs-canned-vs-frozen.html#b (2012).