Read the Label
A food is only as good as the ingredients that are used when it is made. If you read the label and it includes a list of ingredients you can’t pronounce or that you’ve never heard of, odds are it’s not going to be as nutritious as the label claims. Watch for labels that use words like “all natural”, “lite” or “naturally sweetened”. If there is a phone number, feel free to call and ask the company to address any concerns you may have.
Is There an Expiration Date?
Never eat foods if their expiration date has passed. The longer a food sets in the package, the fewer nutrients it contains. Even fresh fruits and vegetables will often have a “use by ” date to indicate when it is at its freshest and its nutrients are the strongest. Be observant and read the entire package. Expiration dates can be found almost anywhere on the package.
How Does It Feel?
If you are buying fresh food, feel it. Is it firm and solid? Does it have soft spots? Make sure vegetables like asparagus and carrots are firm and don’t bend easily. While you can’t feel every piece of fruit or vegetable, you can get a general idea of how fresh the food is and how much nutritive value it contains.
Does It Look Fresh?
When you can’t touch your food before you buy it, make sure to look closely at it. Is it discolored? Does it have brown spots or large areas of discoloration? Know what your foods are supposed to look like. A good example is citrus fruits. Oranges are not always orange when they are picked. Many have dyes injected into the skin or sprayed on the surface to give them the color they are naturally supposed to have.
Does It Smell Fresh?
You can also tell how fresh a food is by how it smells. As fresh fruits and vegetables begin to become overly ripe, they will have a stronger, sweeter smell. Meats that are getting to old will start to smell rancid. The same is true for certain types of oil. Even the healthiest of oils will go bad and begin to emit a strong, rancid odor.
Do the Foods Contain GMO Fruits, Vegetables or Grains?
Genetically modified foods or GMO’s are the newest rage. Although they are genetically the same as the real thing, they do not contain the same amount of nutrients and may not react the same way once they are inside the body. Many food manufacturers are using GMO’s because they are cheaper and have a longer shelf life than natural foods. What is good for the bottom line of the food companies may not be the best choice if you are trying to regain your health naturally and with nutritious foods.
Are the Foods Locally Grown?
Foods that are locally grown are usually higher in nutrients than those that are processed or shipped in from hundreds of miles away. Another benefit of buying locally grown produce is that, often times, you are actually buying from the grower. It is easier to ask what pesticides, if any, were used and how long the produce has been laying in the field before it was harvested. Most growers will be able to answer all of your questions and maybe even offer additional information that may be beneficial.
Does the Food Contain Synthetic or Artificial Nutrients?
Processed foods will sometimes include synthetic or artificial ingredients. Synthetic ingredients do not break down easily within the body. They tend to bog down the liver and make the digestive tract extremely sluggish. Synthetic nutrients are not easily assimilated by the body and may leave behind toxic residue in the liver. Many processed foods often include synthetic ingredients and nutrients as a way of “fortifying” the product with nutrients. While it sounds good, fortifying foods doesn’t always mean the body will be able to use the nutrients once they are consumed.
Are Fortified Foods Good for You?
Fortified foods can be either good or bad when it comes to a nutritional standpoint. If the food is fortified with natural nutrients then it will offer an abundance of nutrients. If synthetic nutrients are used, the nutritive value can be dramatically lower. Look at the ingredients to find out what types of nutrients were used and whether or not they come from natural sources. Natural sources offer higher nutritional benefits.
Is the Manufacturer Reputable?
Do your research when it comes to food companies. Many do exactly what they say and use the freshest ingredients possible. Others, however, will do whatever they have to in order to get you to believe their product offers the maximum amount of health benefits. Read labels. Make phone calls and research the ingredients. This is the best way to evaluate the healthiness of a food. Reputable companies who take pride in creating the healthiest possible food will normally be very transparent when it comes to their ingredients and processing methods.