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Getting Real | Healthism | Nutrition

Grocery Grab and Healthism

In this series I want to showcase some of my favorite picks from our local grocery stores in Durango, CO. There are some great finds and possibly some money saving tips from one bargain shopper to another. I’m all about getting the most bang for your buck and your bite!

I’ll also highlight some foods that I find downright silly, taking healthism to a whole new level. These may also be culprits in driving your food bill up without the nutritional payoff the label claims you’ll receive. Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt tricked into buying something based on the so-called health-promoting benefits. I’ve totally been there, so if your hand is up like mine do not beat yourself up about it. The food industry has us pegged! Here’s how healthism is defined:

Healthism: a lifestyle that prioritizes health and fitness over everything else.

Food manufacturers are onto this pursuit for optimal health. Little bits of “wellness” can be sprinkled into just about any product available. Not too long ago I would’ve been thrilled about some of these foods. Armed with a better understanding of how diet culture infiltrates our everyday lives (and having welcomed formerly “forbidden” foods back into my life), I can’t help but chuckle when I see cauliflower-this or keto-that all over the shelves.

The grocery store is confusing having to navigate nutrition facts and label claims. This may be especially true if you follow a special diet for health reasons or have the added pressure of feeding others.

Foods without labels can be easier to navigate if you’re overwhelmed. Simplify things by looking for veggies, fruits, and proteins that aren’t in extensive packaging littered with health claims. Perhaps something like broccoli, potatoes, and a beef roast for example. Bags of plain frozen veggies, dried beans, lentils, quinoa, and rice are likely free of added ingredients compared to seasoned canned or boxed versions. The latter is great for getting dinner on the table in a pinch, but the “boring” versions are cheaper, can be batch cooked, and jazzed up to your liking.

More ingredients = more confusing

When “functional” ingredients are added this also lengthens the list of ingredients to make sense of! A question I like to consider is whether one would actually be eating enough of a food for the sprinkling of ingredients to have a biological effect. Buzzwords like probiotics, spirulina, and collagen allude to health, but in reality there may only be enough to list them on the label rather than an amount that would actually enhance health.

Take this almond butter. This squeezy package is super convenient, and don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious; the balance of cinnamon and salt is spot on. The five-serving pack costs $4.00; I only bought it because it was being cleared out for $0.99 and was intrigued by the added probiotics (a girl’s gotta research).

As noted on the front, there are one billion CFUs of probiotics per two tablespoon serving. Probiotics are hot because there’s been so much research pointing to immune function, digestive health and associations with a wide variety of health conditions. However, therapeutic doses of these beneficial bugs are typically in the 10-50 billion CFU range or more. Additionally, in a product like this there’s no way to know the viability of the probiotics listed on this label and whether they’d deliver the purported benefit.

In my estimation you likely wouldn’t see a notable change in digestive health by consuming this probiotic infused almond butter. That is, unless you ate the entire package, in which case I’d guess you’d suffer some major digestive consequences!

What’s your “why?”

While this can be a tasty convenient schmear if you’re road tripping or out on a hike, I wouldn’t lean on it as a source for probiotics. You really can feel alright about going back to your old trusty nut butter spread.

This example is simply to shed light on the ever growing food marketing ploys praying on our desire for “optimal wellness.” It’s merely an exercise to ask yourself: what is the motivation behind the behavior? Do you feel virtuous eating this nut butter versus a less fancy version? Are you looking to improve your digestive health? Have you been lured in by the health-promoting label claims? I’ll come back to these questions from time to time. They’re important to consider when making food and health choices and something you can start asking yourself now.

Note: I recognize that there are label reading and food decision nuances not mentioned here for folks with specific diagnosed allergies/intolerances/sensitivities.

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