Brands now have to specify on their labels everything that is contained within a product. Trying to decipher these ingredients can be a confusing and challenging endeavour. To add to the confusion, a lucrative market filled with supplements, energy drinks and natural health products is a potential minefield to the uninformed.
Here are our Top 5 easy ways to stay informed about food and health:
1. The Label Nightmare.
By following the advice of Gabi Steenkamp (a registered dietician) with regards to food labels and kilojoules (kj) and kilocalories (kcal), your food purchases are likely to change. A large pack (125g) of Lays salted chips tells us that 100g = 532kcal. If you eat the whole packet it’s 665kcal. That’s about a third of a woman’s recommended daily calorie intake. If the label only quotes kilojoules, divide the kj’s by 4.2 to get kcal. You will then have a better understanding of what you are purchasing and may reconsider.
2. Will it do no harm?
Before buying tonics and energy drinks, take a look at some of the ingredients they contain. Stimulants such as caffeine can have disagreeable side effects and are often found in these products. To put caffeine in perspective, it is banned by the International Olympic Committee at levels equivalent to several cups of coffee over a short period of time.
3. Energy comes from carbohydrates.
Instant energy comes from sugars (fizzy drinks, juices, muffins, chocolate). Some of these ‘empty calories‘ convert to fat and if you are already overweight your ability to burn energy decreases and you store more fat. So next time you pick up something sweet, weigh up the pros and cons.
4. The cost.
Supplements, energy drinks and health products are more expensive than real foods and provide fewer nutrients overall. The average person rarely needs anything other than a balanced range of foods and sufficient water.
5. Too good to be true!
Then it probably is. A tablet claiming ‘Exercise in a Capsule’ should not be taken seriously. A ‘Revitalising Energy Booster’ sounds enticing, but is just a high carbohydrate (sugar) drink with added vitamins and minerals. Fat mobilisers and amino acid supplements that assert to “cut excess fat and help increase muscle definition” is misleading because only a change in diet and exercise can achieve this.