Are fortified foods helpful? Adding nutrients to foods sounds like an easy choice for better health, but there’s more to consider.
I’ve been studying health and holistic healthy lifestyle choices for a really long time. Actually, since December of 2000. And one of my early mentors who was really instrumental in developing the knowledge that I have, and that I share with my private clients, once told me a story that I want to share with you today. She said, “If somebody came up to you and asked you to give them $100 and they would give you $6 back, would you feel fortified or would you feel robbed?”
My name is Elaine Gardner, I’m the founder of DesignYourHealthyLife.com, and I’m sharing that story with you because I think it’s a really great way to introduce you to the concept of fortified foods and why they are an issue. I love her story because it shows that fortification is not giving you the nutrients that your body needs. If you have a really healthy food and it gets processed to the point where all the nutrients that were in the original product or food are now gone, and then you synthetically add 6-12 or even 20 nutrients back and call it fortified, you’re really getting robbed. You could have just eaten that food in its whole natural form and gotten a whole lot more nutrients.
I love that story because I think it quickly showcases the lie, the myth, the trick that’s been played on us when we’re exposed to fortified foods. We think we’re being given more when we’re actually being given less than what we could have. And there’s more issues involved in fortification as well.
Another really significant issue with consuming fortified foods is that the nutrients that are added back are synthetic. They’re made in a lab, not from a food source, so they’re in different ratios than you would find in a whole food. And when you consume nutrients that are out of balance like that, you create bigger deficiencies long term.
I’ll use Vitamin C as an example because it was the first vitamin that was actually identified. So what we typically think of as Vitamin C on a food label or a supplement label is usually going to be ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid is only a piece of the Vitamin C complex. There are many, many other factors that are inside; the ascorbic acid is the wrapper around the whole complex. And your body needs all of the pieces in order for them to work properly within your body.
So when you consume a fortified product that has ascorbic acid in it, as it enters your body, the ascorbic acid is going to scrounge and look for the other pieces of the Vitamin C complex within your bodily tissues. It’s the only way that it can be physiologically active in order to work inside your body. So if you take large amounts of ascorbic acid, you’ll get depleted of all those other Vitamin C factors that are within that Vitamin C complex and are not in the synthetic version added to fortified foods.
And you can probably see where this is going… if you do this on a regular basis, or get it in high doses, your body can get depleted of those other factors that are within that vitamin complex. So you can create greater deficiencies than where you started when you’re consuming fortified foods and their synthetic nutrients. It’s a huge risk that people aren’t aware of and something that I see a lot of in my private practice as well.
The other thing to consider is the source of those fortified nutrients. Where are they coming from? What are they made from? Well they’re not coming from food; they’re made in a lab. And they’re often made from things that are very unsavory. From a consumption standpoint, you can make large amounts of Vitamin C by detracting corn syrup in sulfuric acid. And a lot of fortified or synthetic nutrients are also made from coal tar derivatives, and petroleum byproducts and things of that nature. So they’re creating and matching the molecular structure of that particular piece of a nutrient complex, the way you would find it in food, but they’re creating it in a lab from a non-food source. And a lot of those source ingredients, the petroleum derivatives and things like that, can be toxic to your body.
Many synthetic nutrients that are used to fortify foods are also made from corn derivatives and soy derivatives. Corn and soy are two of our biggest genetically modified crops here in the United States, so it’s likely that you’re also getting GMO ingredients when consuming products that have fortified nutrients in them. GMO’s are very controversial and there are lots of people, usually the companies that are making them, that are claiming to be saving the world and increasing crop fields and all of this kind of stuff, but there’s a lot of evidence to show that GMO’s can be incredibly risky for your health. A lot of that information, that scientific research, is actually being suppressed so that’s a real tragedy.
You need to protect yourself. There’s no way to tell by just reading a food label that the source of any ingredient in there is genetically modified, with a few exceptions. Genetically modified ingredients are not allowed in organic products. The Non-GMO Project Verification label also eliminates the risk of exposure to GMO’s. If it just says “No GMO’s” on the package and it doesn’t say “USDA Organic” or “Organic Certified” or “Non-GMO Project Verified”, it can be an outright lie. Unfortunately you can claim that on the label even if it’s not true. So those labels are the only way you can avoid those kinds of things. It’s unfortunate that what seems like a good thing (getting added nutrients in a product), is actually trickery and misleading.
I’d encourage you to read all of your labels. Ascorbic acid, niacin and riboflavin are some of the most common names for the fortified vitamins that you’re going to find in products like bread, crackers and those kinds of things. A lot of flours are enriched or fortified. So make sure you read your labels and avoid those things because they really do not serve you well. Look for real, whole foods that are naturally loaded with vitamins that haven’t been manipulated and stripped of their nutrients. It’s a much, much healthier option. You’ll get the nutrients that you need, in the right forms coming from foods, so there’s no risk associated with them.
So I hope that serves you well. My goal is always to educate and inspire you so that you can make great choices and have a super healthy lifestyle in order to have the health you need to live the life that you deserve. And I created a free guide that I’d love for you to have. There are a lot of other hidden dangers in our food supply, in addition to fortified foods, and You Are What You Eat: Hidden Dangers in your Food, will help you get a quick idea of whether you’re aware of all the risks that are lurking in our food supply and whether you’re truly making healthy choices or not. After you read it, let me know if you were already aware of the risks or not. I’d love for you to share that with me in the comments below.