Walk into any grocery store and encounter shelf after shelf of products shouting a health message.
Reduced sodium! Helps lower cholesterol! Only 100 calories per serving!
And yet, as a cardiologist, all I do all day long is treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol in individuals struggling to lose weight. What is going on?
The truth is that these health messages are more marketing hype than straightforward nutrition guidance. They’re designed to sway a purchase decision, which, in a grocery store is typically made within 3 to 5 seconds.
The claim of “reduced sodium” means that a serving of the product contains at least 25% less sodium than a similar reference product. Campbell’s French Onion Soup starts out at 980 mg of sodium per ½ cup serving. A 25% sodium reduction would still not make this a good choice for someone with hypertension.
Honey Nut Cheerios might state that they “help lower cholesterol”, but the little asterisk by the claim states that you need to eat 4 servings of the cereal to consume enough fiber to affect lipid levels. Do that, and you’re taking in 440 calories, 9 teaspoons of added sugar, and more than a third of the recommended sodium for a heart patient. Not exactly a great trade off. And you won’t even find a single nut in the box. Just almond flavor.
Specific calorie content is often highlighted on snack items, like Chips Ahoy! 100-Calorie Thin Crisps Chocolate Chip Cookies. But even 100 calories is not inconsequential. Add 100 calories a day and gain 10 pounds in a year. Eat the simple carbs and rev up your pancreas to make insulin. Do that too many times and you’ll start to develop blood sugar abnormalities.
Even the American Heart Association seal is not a fool-proof guarantee. You might think that the AHA scours the grocery store and identifies products it deems worthy to endorse. Nothing could be further from the truth. Manufacturers pay a fee to have that symbol placed on their labels. And the fee is not insignificant. Which explains why bags of salad and containers of blueberries have no red heart symbols on them. Yes, there are nutrition standards which have to be met to qualify for this seal of approval. But even those standards have been eased to accommodate certain brands.
It is this deceptive and confusing food landscape that inspired me to create Step One Foods. REAL foods. Made from REAL ingredients. With honest promises - and even a money back guarantee. Because there is no shortage of marketing hype. There is only a shortage of foods that actually build health.