Don Draper never claimed to be a nutritionist. But what’s the line between clever marketing and misleading claims? That’s the question at hand in the ongoing lawsuit against the maker of 7UP. The lawsuit claims that 7UP’s “Cherry Antioxidant,” “Mixed Berry Antioxidant,” and “Pomegranate Antioxidant” varieties misled customers.
That made us think: what other dubious claims on packages allow junk food to masquerade as health food? With help from Ilyse Schapiro, M.S., a registered dietitian in private practice in the New York City area, we got the scoop on six suspect phrases you’ve seen in the supermarket.
“Fortified with Omega-3s”
Breads and cereals with this claim often contain ingredients like flaxseed or canola oil, which contain a type of omega-3 called ALA. The catch: ALA isn’t as readily absorbed and used by the body as the omega-3s found in fish DHA and EPA. Translation: They’re not really doing much for you. Even if DHA and EPA are added–and the packaging will say so–there simply may not be enough in each serving to make a difference. For example, a two-tablespoon serving of omega-3 peanut butter contains 32 milligrams (mg) of DHA and EPA–far less than the 250 mg daily USDA recommendation. Best to get the nutrient through fish or pop fish oil supplements. (Click here for the 10 Best Supplements for Men.)
“100% Vitamin C”
As you’re eating a serving or two of fruits or vegetables daily, you’re likely getting enough. One orange supplies 116 percent of your daily C value, while a half-cup of chopped red bell pepper contains 158 percent.
“Made with Whole Grains”
The FDA suggests these products contain some amount of whole grain, but doesn’t specify the percentage. What that means for you? Your whole grain crackers may be made of mostly white flour. The first ingredient should say “whole grain” or “whole-wheat flour.” (Warning: “Unbleached wheat flour” is a name for white flour, so skip.)
“With Added Fiber”
These days, foods that used to be fiber-free, like yogurt, now contain fiber–typically in the form of ingredients like inulin or chicory root. They contain insoluble fiber to help you stay regular in the bathroom, but they’re not a good source of heart-healthy soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol. Good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, seeds, and beans.
These may be fortified with antioxidants A, C, and E. However, there isn’t sufficient research to suggest that A or E can prevent the common cold or cancer in supplement form. Large doses of C may be effective to improve immunity, but research isn’t conclusive and you’d have to get about 1,000 mg–or more than 10 times the amount found in a serving of that immune-boosting water. Want to stop a cold in its tracks? Here are 10 Ways to Fight a Cold at the First Sneeze.
“Made With/From Real Fruit”
These yogurts, waffles, cereal, and fruit snacks may boast big pictures of plump, ripe fruit on their packaging, but contain a trivial amount of actual fruit. And even then, it’s usually in the form of pear juice concentrate or fruit “bits,” mixed with non-fruit ingredients like sugar and oil. Stick to the produce section, and fill your cart with the 5 Fruits that Fight the Flu.