Even before the pandemic, the trend toward a healthy lifestyle was already snowballing. This includes not only regular exercise but also a healthy diet. Healthy food is now recognized as both a preventive measure and as part of the management of health conditions that have already developed.
Medical experts have identified the high intake of sugar, salt, and trans fats as primary contributors to major chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, fatty liver disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. These also weaken the immune system and make the individual more vulnerable to infectious diseases.
Proper Labeling for Food Products and Beverages
Manufacturers of food and beverages cater to this need in the market and are taking steps to produce more healthful products. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also requires them to properly label manufactured food products and beverages so that consumers can check what they are buying.
For packages containing several servings, the label must provide information for one serving and the entire package. The calories for one serving are more prominent. The label also highlights percentages of added sugars, sodium, and trans fats.
Lowering Sugar Content
Natural sugars like those from fruit are not considered as added sugars in manufactured food. Additives like corn syrup, maple sugar, brown sugar, honey, and molasses are added sugars. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people from the age of two and above limit their intake of added sugars to below 10 percent of their total calorie intake daily. Babies below two years old must not have any intake of added sugars.
Because of these guidelines, many consumers are now reading labels closely before purchasing food and drinks. Therefore, many manufacturers are finding ways to lower, if not completely remove, added sugars from their products.
One of the ways that many types of food and beverage manufacturers now sweeten their products naturally is through unsweetened all-natural fruit purees that they buy from brewery suppliers. This can be used for bottled fruit juices, bottled tea, and various baked products such as filled doughnuts.
These can also be used to flavor ice cream and yogurt naturally, among others. These purees are safe for baby food, as well. Since these purees are natural and obtain their sweetness only from fruits, they are not considered added sugars.
Lowering Sodium Content
The U.S. government’s dietary guidelines for 2020 to 2025 lowered the limit for the daily intake of sodium to 2,300 mg. from 2,400 mg. for people aged 14 and above as well as pregnant women. An intake lower than this reduces the risk for chronic diseases.
The bare minimum that the body needs is about 500 mg. a day for its critical functions. However, the government established a lower limit for adequate intake of sodium at 1,500 mg. daily for people aged 14 and above and pregnant women. This is to ensure avoidance of deficiency and enough intake of healthy food that contains sodium naturally.
Most processed food and restaurant food are high in sodium, so the average consumption of Americans is as high as 3,400 mg. a day. Common sources of sodium are chips, pretzels, popcorn, crackers, cheese, pizza, processed meats, canned soup, canned sauces, and prepackaged meals.
To attract health-conscious consumers, many manufacturers are turning to sodium alternatives to season their products, and one of these is potassium chloride. The FDA recommends that manufacturers use potassium salt on the label to better inform consumers that it is an alternative to salt.
Avoiding Unhealthy Fats
Trans fatty acids are added to processed food as partially hydrogenated oils. The FDA already declared partially hydrogenated oils as unsafe for human consumption. In June 2018, the FDA banned their addition to manufactured food, but some of those produced before this deadline can still be marketed up to 2021.
Products with labels that list trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils as zero can still contain up to less than 0.5 grams for each serving. When checking labels, consumers are better off choosing products that do not list these in their ingredients.
Food types that are still likely to contain trans fats are baked goods and refrigerated dough, such as cakes, rolls, biscuits, pies, pastries, cookies, and crackers, as well as ready-made frosting. Savory food types most likely to contain trans fats include pizza, fried food, and fast food. Margarine, vegetable shortening, and non-dairy coffee creamers are culprits, too.
In removing trans fats, some food manufacturers, such as Crisco, combined safe oils such as cottonseed, soy, and sunflower oils in their products. Among fast-food companies, Wendy’s combined non-hydrogenated soy and corn oils. McDonald’s, combined soybean and canola oils.
Healthy Products are More Profitable
The world has changed, and so have consumers. With the pandemic, the trend toward healthy living increased along with the demand for healthy food and drink. Manufacturers must now see that doing the right thing and producing healthy food products and beverages increases profits.