Should they be an essential part of your diet?
The most recent trend in food marketing seems to be touting products that are fortified with an array of vitamins and minerals. Worried your kids aren’t getting enough vitamins? Simply pick from a large selection of fortified cereals and be assured that your kids are getting the complete nutrition they need. Do you think you’re lacking in Omega-3 Fatty Acids? You don’t have to scarf down a salmon fillet, just simply pick up a box of whole wheat pasta that has added Omega 3’s. But are these products worth the money? And most importantly, is your body reaping the benefits of all of these extra nutrients? In order to answer these questions, let’s first take a look at what defines a fortified food.
Foods that have added vitamins and minerals that don’t occur naturally in them are considered fortified foods. Fortified foods are different from another common term, known as enriched foods. Enriched foods are those that contain essential vitamins and minerals that are lost during refining or processing. When a food is enriched, it simply means that the nutrients have been added back into the finished product.
While it seems that the number of fortified foods is growing rapidly in today’s market, they are not necessarily a new invention. In the 1930’s manufacturers began fortifying milk with Vitamin D to prevent Rickets, which was a bone deficiency caused in children due to the lack of Vitamin D. However, just because a food has an added nutrient doesn’t mean your body is able to take full advantage of it. For example, a food can be fortified with iron, but in an insoluble form your body will simply flush that added iron out of your system. Providing your body with too much of a certain vitamin or mineral can also have adverse effects. Vitamin C is a nutrient that is commonly added to fortified foods; however an excess of vitamin C in your body can cause diarrhea, upset stomach and even kidney stones.
Whether or not fortified foods are beneficial for your body is different for everyone. Your body’s ability to take advantage of the extra vitamins and nutrients depends on your current diet and what nutritional benefits your body is already receiving. Fortified foods are often pricier than their regular counterparts, so it’s best to do your research ahead of time and learn what nutrients you as an individual can benefit from before you spend the money on foods that may or may not work to your advantage.
In general, the best advice is to get your fill of essential vitamins and nutrients from minimally processed foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The bulk food aisle is a reliable place to find a wide variety of healthy foods at a reasonable price. Forego the fortified foods and travel to the bulk food aisle, where you’ll find products like whole wheat flours and heart healthy nuts as well as gluten free and organic items.
Learn more about the variety of foods available to you every day in the bulk food aisle by checking out this short video clip!
Mama’s Health. Enriched and Fortified Foods. http://www.mamashealth.com/nutrition/enrich.asp
Lieberman, Janice. Are Vitamin Fortified Foods Healthier? Today.http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/16892345
Reistad-Long, Sara. Fortified Foods: How Healthy Are They? Wall Street Journal.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124267976477131801.html