When I first started researching ingredients and food over 8 years ago, the industry was so different than it is now…
More people are aware of what’s in their food – we’re reading ingredient lists, juicing, taking supplements, and eating more real food. That’s why we’re now seeing a wave of new “healthy” products flooding the market as some food brands are hoping to cash in on the health food movement…
But some brands aren’t going about it the right way.
You’ve heard of greenwashing, right? That’s when a company makes their product appear more environmentally-friendly than it really is. Well, the same is happening to our food. Health-washing is EVERYWHERE.
“Health-washing” is when a food company adds synthetic and processed additives to food to make it appear healthier and more nutrient dense than it actually is. Food companies will also add specific labels to the packaging, which imply a product is healthier than it actually is.
They are targeting people like you with these products, people who care about their food and are trying to make the healthiest decisions. Health-washing is getting RAMPANT out there – that’s why you need to know how companies do this so you can protect yourself. Here are 6 ways food brands health-wash their products:
#1. They add synthetic vitamins & minerals to artificially pump up the nutrient content.
8Greens tells you it’s got “As much Vitamin C as 6 Oranges”… “As much Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) as 15 cups of Broccoli”… and “As much Vitamin B6 as 6 cups of Spinach”… but actually these nutrients in 8Greens are NOT coming from oranges, broccoli, or spinach. 8Greens adds in synthetic vitamins (i.e. artificial vitamins) that are made in a laboratory. Deceitful right?
“The eight greens themselves (spinach, wheatgrass, kale, blue green algae, spirulina, chlorella, barley grass and aloe vera) naturally contain vitamins, but we have added extra vitamins to make sure that 8Greens is a more effective supplement. These are those extra vitamins and minerals that you see added to our formula and listed on the nutrition label. These extra vitamins on the label are synthetic… Any naturally occurring vitamins are not listed and such breakdown isn’t available however our green proprietary blend is 686 mg per tablet.” – 8Greens Customer Support (June 2019)
Right on the package it says “Made from Real Greens” but really the majority of the product is coming from synthetic vitamins. How much actual “greens” are you feasibly eating in that small 8Greens pill? You’d be getting a lot more by drinking a green smoothie, I can tell you that much! Products like this make consumers feel like they are getting their daily greens, but in reality, it is just a high-priced synthetic vitamin supplement.
Now, you might be thinking this doesn’t matter. All vitamins are healthy, right? Not if they are made in a lab from a variety of questionable sources like coal tar, petroleum and GMOs. Lab-created vitamins differ from their natural counterpart, and thus aren’t often believed to be absorbed by your body as well as naturally present vitamins that you get from whole food and supplements with vitamins derived naturally from whole foods (1). Natural vitamins still contain cofactors that aid in absorption and bioavailability – enzymes, bioflavonoids, minerals, etc. Real food and natural vitamins are always best.
Here’s another example…
Good Health Veggie Pretzels look like snack-time gold! Right there on the package, they tell you you’re getting the same amount of Vitamin A as 2 ½ cups of broccoli… the Vitamin C in 3 ½ beets… the Vitamin E in 5 tomatoes… the Vitamin B6 in 7 cups spinach… and the Vitamin K in 2 carrots. Wow – sounds like you’ll be eating a ton of produce, huh? Nope. Turns out they are playing the same dirty trick as 8Greens by just adding all those synthetic vitamins in to make it look like you are getting nutrients from real food. MAJOR FAIL.
#2. They add probiotics to unhealthy sugary foods.
Adding probiotics to a Double Chocolate Muffin full of sugar doesn’t make it better for you. It’s widely known that sugar destroys good gut bacteria (2)… and sugar is literally the first ingredient in these FlapJacked Double Chocolate Mighty Muffins, essentially negating benefits that you might be getting from the probiotics added.
The FDA is not regulating how much (if any) actual living probiotics are in products like this (3). Probiotics are fragile living organisms that are typically killed by heat, so the type FlapJacked uses is heat-resistant designed to survive heavy processing (4)… but that doesn’t mean I’m not skeptical that nuking a Mighty Muffin in the microwave on high (their recommended cooking method) isn’t going to kill many of the probiotics. They claim the microwaved muffins have been tested and contain live probiotics. Either way – Wouldn’t you rather get your probiotics from healthy fermented foods and high quality probiotic supplements than from sugary processed muffins? There are much healthier and cost-effective ways to get your probiotics in each day and this is just one way food companies try to “health-ify” junky food.
#3. They use the Certified Organic label on unhealthy food, especially targeted towards children.
There’s no doubt that organic food is the safest choice and I’m a huge advocate of organic farming. That being said… some organic brands make some really unhealthy products. This is where the organic label can be a bit deceptive. Many people equate “organic” with “healthy” – but that is not always the case. Even worse – I often see the most unhealthy organic products made especially for babies and children. Shouldn’t they be starting out with the healthiest food? If you find yourself assuming organic products are healthy and buying them without reading the ingredients, just remember to repeat after me: The organic label does not mean a product is healthy…
Clif Bar Organic ZFruit Strawberry Snack is made with ZERO strawberries (maybe that is what the “Z” stands for? LOL).
To illustrate this… a Clif Bar ZFruit (made with apple puree concentrate and juice concentrate) contains 14 grams of sugar and less than 1 gram of fiber. They add in synthetic Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). If you were to eat 1⁄2 cup real strawberries instead, you’d eat only 4 grams of sugar with about 2 grams of fiber – and lots of valuable vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. This is why whole fruit is best.
Stonyfield says YoBaby is “Made with only organic whole milk and the kind of ingredients you would use yourself” – Ummm not true. I wouldn’t add refined white sugar and “natural” flavors to yogurt…especially if I was feeding it to my baby (6). It’s super simple to add “flavor” to plain grass-fed yogurt at home by stirring in some mashed berries or bananas…YUM…and no sugar needed.
UPDATE 8/29/19 – I received the following from Stonyfield in response to this investigation:
“We saw your recent post regarding natural flavors and organic sugar in our YoBaby Vanilla yogurt and I wanted to send along some additional information for context.
All of the natural flavors we use in our products are always derived exclusively from natural sources like spices, fruits or fruit juices, vegetables or vegetable juices, and plants. We choose our suppliers very carefully to make sure that they are as committed as we are to producing natural flavors without the use of any artificial components.
Regarding sugar, the sugar we do add is organic sugar, because we never use artificial ingredients and would never use artificial sweeteners – both of which are not allowed with organic as you know. Maybe most importantly, we do offer three lines of baby yogurt that have zero added sugar – our YoBaby Banana Mango, YoBaby Purple Carrot /Sweet Potato, and YoBaby plain. We feel it’s important to offer several flavors and plain, all without added sugar.
We care about the amount of sugar that people consume, including in our yogurts. In fact, this is why we reduced sugar across our entire portfolio, starting with our Kids brand in 2017. Stonyfield Kids yogurt has up to 40% less than the leading kids brand of yogurt. You can read more here: https://www.stonyfield.com/organic/healthy/sugar-reduction
Ultimately though we offer the choice to the consumer, and offer almost 100 different organic products. And, for those who do want to restrict their sugar intake, we offer plain versions of our nonfat, lowfat, whole milk and Greek yogurt without any added sugar in addition to the YoBaby yogurts I mentioned above.
I hope this helps provide a bit more context for you! We greatly respect the work you do to educate consumers around the world about their food choices, and we want to make sure you were up to date with information around our yogurts.”
Little Duck Organics Fig Bars are the perfect example of how some organic brands make healthy products, while also making some not so healthy ones. I’ve bought products by Little Duck before, but I wouldn’t buy these. When you look closely at the ingredient list you’ll find 4 types of added sugar before any actual blueberries or kale (Brown Rice Syrup, Dried Cane Juice, Concentrated Apple Juice, Coconut Palm Sugar) along with unhealthy refined canola oil and lots of processed flours/starches (1). You’ve got to wonder how much blueberry and kale are really in these too – I bet it’s negligible. On the other hand, Little Duck also makes “Tiny Fruits” that are simply 100% freeze-dried organic fruit that I buy for my daughter Harley as a little snack to have on trips or when we go out to an event.
#4. They add protein to products with risky ingredients.
Taking a super unhealthy product and adding extra protein to it does not transform it into a health food – especially when it’s soy protein isolate. When soy is isolated to just its protein state, it becomes severely denatured and can cause hormonal disruptions because of the excessive amount of estrogen contained in it (1). Soy also contains an abundance of phytic acid, which leaches calcium and other vital minerals from your body. Plus – over 90% of the soy produced in this country is GMO and contaminated with Roundup herbicide. Kellogg’s Special K Protein Cereal is also spiked with refined sugar, fake flavors, and BHT (a preservative linked to cancer)(7) – not a good protein-packed way to begin your mornings. Try a healthy green protein smoothie instead!
Protein-infused Protein20 water looks like a health supplement, but it’s sweetened with one of the worst sweeteners out there – Sucralose (aka Splenda). This artificial sweetener is linked to leukemia and other blood cancers in animal studies (1). It’s also been shown that artificial sweeteners like Sucralose are doing little to help people lose weight and are actually linked to weight gain (1).
The type of protein in these is another popular protein supplement – conventional whey protein isolate – which is highly processed. Most whey protein isolates start from ultra-pasteurized “Monsanto Milk” raised on GMOs, antibiotics, and other drugs. This milk is then exposed to acid processing, which strips out alkalizing minerals and naturally occurring vitamins and lipids. This processing makes whey protein isolate overly acidifying in the body. And, chronically consuming whey protein isolate without appropriate balance of alkalizing foods can acidify your body, which over time can increase your vulnerability to degenerative disease.
#5. They imply their product contains healthy fruit, even when it doesn’t.
Despite that big strawberry on the cup, there is not one strawberry in there. “Two Good” yogurt by Dannon is extra processed to remove natural sugars in the milk and then flavored and colored to look and taste like there is fruit in it – but it’s all fake. They also add thickeners (tapioca starch, gellan gum) to replace some texture lost from all that processing. Natural flavors used to make it taste like fruit are not actually “natural” at all (6). These fake flavors are made in a lab to mimic the taste of fruit and are designed to keep you coming back to eat more. As explained by flavor manufacturer Nature’s Flavors, “The trick to making a product taste good is to give the customer only enough flavor to tease their taste buds. You never want to completely satisfy their tastes” (8). Do you really want to eat fake flavors that were manufactured to keep you unsatisfied and wanting more, or would you rather just eat real fruit and all the nutrients that come with it?
#6. They add processed fibers to increase the fiber content.
Sara Lee and BFree say their products are good sources of fiber, but they add cellulose to artificially pump up the fiber content. The type of cellulose that food companies typically use is made from wood. Cellulose is much cheaper to obtain from wood than fruits and vegetables, and is manipulated in a laboratory to form different structures (liquid, powder, etc) depending upon the food product it is used in (9). According to the Center For Science In The Public Interest, cellulose is a cheap way to boost the fiber content on food labels, but it isn’t as healthful as fiber that comes from natural foods (10). Recent research links this additive to weight gain, inflammation and digestive problems (11). Get your fiber from whole grains, fruits & veggies instead.
I’m so sick of seeing products like this, and that’s one reason I launched Truvani. We don’t health-wash our products…
We’re not gonna add probiotics to sugary snacks…
We’re not gonna add protein to junk food…
We’re not gonna add fake vitamins to chips…
We’re not gonna add wood to bread…
We’re not gonna use the tricks that Big Food uses to pull one over on you.
From the very start, Truvani’s mission has been simple: Real food without added chemicals. Products without toxins. Labels without lies. We will be transparent with our ingredient sourcing and pick the best ingredients available.
I make sure that every product created is with integrity and not some “fluff” product to make money. Don’t you wish there were more companies like this? We are working as fast as we can to bring more healthy products to market for you… and I have EXCITING NEWS:
Truvani is launching BRAND NEW products on July 17th. Be the first to find out what they are: Sign up here
Voting with our dollars is one of the most important things we can do to change the food system. Now, I am finally able to create the healthy products that I always wanted to see in stores, not just for myself – but for you too. Your support is making this all possible.
Can you guess what our new products will be? What do you want us to create next? Tell me in the comments! Here’s a HINT from our product video shoot…
And, don’t forget to sign up here to get first dibs on our new products!
P.S. If you know anyone who might be falling for junk food disguised as health food, please hit share on this post!