Tyler Robbins Fitness

Tyler Robbins has his B.Sc. in Biochemistry: Pre-Medical, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), is certified through USA Weightlifting, and a CrossFit Level 2 Trainer.

Food Label Claims Part 1

This will be part 1 in a series of blogs looking at claims made by food manufacturers and how they can sometimes be deceiving. Often times, when a certain health topic or category becomes main-stream in the media, companies jump all over the opportunity to plaster certain labels on their products in order to 'cash-in' on catch-phrases or buzz words. Below, and in subsequent blogs, I will detail information about certain label catch-phrases you may see at the grocery store.

"Calorie Reduced"/"Fewer Calories"/"Light"/"Lite"

What does it mean?
Companies tend to remove fat when creating "Light" or "Lite" versions of their products. These products can, and usually have up to 25% fewer calories than their 'regular' counterpart.

What to watch out for
Calorie reduced products can be especially handy for those of you watching what you eat, but make sure you read your Nutrition Facts on the back of the packaging and compare to other similar products to see what is actually being added/removed to reduce the overall calories. Often times, companies may even try and fool you by using phrases like "Light Tasting" when referring to the taste or color of the product. Also beware of "Light" or "Lite" beverages such as soft drinks and beers as they may not be as reduced as you think they are, not to mention Diet sodas may actually be worse for you due to the artificial sweeteners!

"Low Fat"/"Low in Fat"

What does it mean?
This usually means the product contains 3 grams (27cal) of fat or less per serving.

What to watch out for
First of all, keep an eye on what exactly the "serving size" suggestion is on the Nutrition Facts label, as you can easily double or even triple your grams of fat by living with the "It's low fat so I can use more" philosophy. Also, the human body is designed to enjoy fatty foods. We enjoy the taste because our bodies need fats to survive, so when a company removes fat from its products, they tend to not taste as good, and if something doesn't taste very good, you are unlikely to purchase it again. Fat is generally replaced with sugar to improve the taste, which can lead to vicious blood sugar cycles leading to increased hunger, so try and pick products that have the lowest amount of sugar.

"No Trans Fat"/"No Trans-Fatty Acids"

What does it mean?
Generally means contains fewer than 0.2g of trans fat per serving and less than 2g of saturated fat per serving.

What to watch out for
Trans fats are man-made to increase the shelf-life of food products. They are completely useless to the human body. Many recent research studies have also been done linking trans fats to some forms of cancer. This "Zero Trans Fat" label fad is a perfect example of companies slapping this on their label when they may not actually be completely trans-fat free! Definitely check your Nutrition Facts label on the back of your products and try to avoid whenever possible!

"Cholesterol Free"/"No Cholesterol"

What does it mean?
Generally, this indicates that the product contains less than 2 milligrams of cholesterol per seving.

What to watch out for
These types of labels are generally quite safe to follow as they usually do follow what they say. However, there a few things to keep in mind here. First of all, a very quick and brief overview of cholesterol and how it interacts in your body as many of you may have had a blood test done in your life measuring said values. Cholesterol is used as a major building block in cell structure and formation. LDL (or low-density lipoprotein) is generally considered the "bad" cholesterol because it can combine with fat deposits and other cellular debris floating in your bloodstream to create "plaque" which is essentially road blocks in your arteries and veins. These "road blocks" can lead to a myriad of problems such as heart disease, stroke, etc. HDL (or high-density lipoprotein) is known as the "good" cholesterol and acts as a carrier system carrying cholesterol back to your liver for re-utilization or excretion. Just keep in mind that your body does need cholesterol, so you should consume at least some foods with it. Also keep in mind that cholesterol can only be found in animal products (eggs, dairy, meat) so products that are naturally "Cholesterol-Free" anyways but still put it on their labels (vegetables, etc.) is just one of those clever marketing gimmicks.

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS