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Does Gluten Free, Fat Free and Organic Mean It's Healthy?

Does Gluten Free, Fat Free and Organic Mean It's Healthy?

Everyone claims that their healthy eating habits are the answer to everyone else’s health woes regarding weight loss or overall general health and well-being.

We get bombarded with advertisements for gluten, fat free, and organic products. But eating healthy doesn’t have to mean consuming no gluten, fat, or non-organic products. You'd be surprised how many health and fitness myths are going around these days. 

Here's the truth about fat free, gluten free and organic foods:

Fat Free

The first thing we need to clear up is the fact that your “fat free” foods might not actually be totally fat free. Why? In the United States, a food can be labeled as fat free as long as there is less than 0.5g of fat in it. Plus, if we’re honest, fat free foods just don’t taste that great! To make up for this, the producers tend to increase the amounts of sugar, salt, flour, and thickeners into the mix, which causes an increase in calories, sugar intake, and sodium intake. 

Instead of trying to eliminate fat from your diet, incorporate healthy fats into your diet! Think omega-3 fatty acids. Avocados, salmon, tuna, and olive oils are packed with these.

Gluten Free

Just because a product is gluten free does not mean that it is a health food. Like fat free foods, gluten free foods aren’t always full of flavor. Because of this, producers add extra sugar and salt to make it more appealing to your taste buds, but in turn this leads to an increase in calories. Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom, TODAY’s health and diet editor, explains that seeking out gluten-free substitutes for cakes, breads, and cookies instead of eating fruits and vegetables (which are naturally gluten-free) does not make you a healthier eater unless you have a medical need to eliminate gluten. Medical need or not, you should still be incorporating fruits and veggies into your diet along with whatever gluten choices you make.

Organic

Before we even discuss organic products, it’s important to be able to define what organic actually is. An organic food product is a product that is grown without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, or hormones, OR a food product made with products that have been grown without these four things. Many people claim that organic foods lead to better nutrition since they used more natural production methods and others claim that pesticides and other substances in non-organic foods are extremely dangerous to our health. Between 1996 and 2009, 223 studies were conducted to compare the vitamin and contaminant content in organic and non-organic foods. No significant differences were reported. Beyond that, 17 more studies looked at how organic and non-organic foods affected humans. They tested whether children and pregnant women were better protected against allergies when eating organic versus non-organic foods. There were no findings to support that they were better protected with organic foods. It did however turn out that those who eat organic meat in the winter months were more likely to get campylobacter infection which can lead to food poisoning.

Whether you eat an organic apple or a non-organic one, you’ll still get the same amount of nutrients (provided that the apples are about the same size and type of course). But what about food products that aren’t grown, but are a combination of organic ingredients? What about that organic granola bar or that organic breakfast cereal? Here’s the deal, just like nonorganic food products, it all boils down to how much of what ingredients go into making each product. You can have a cereal made with organic sugar, but if there are 40g of sugar per serving, it’s still not great for you.

In the end, a lot of healthy eating has to do with moderation and portion control. Unless you have a medical need for it, you shouldn’t be totally eliminating any key components of your diet (like fat, sugar, carbs, protein). You can still make healthy eating choices without breaking the bank on gluten free, fat free, and organic products.

By: Kayla Harwick

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