Should Your Food Be Fortified?

Should Food Be Fortified?

Food can be fortified before purchased or fortified by you while cooking at home.

By Kevin RR Williams

NUTRITION When cooking, do you "season to taste," perhaps including sugar and spice and everything nice? We wouldn't normally consider this fortification. Taste. Sprinkle. Taste. Sprinkle some more. Have you ever thought of intentionally adding ingredients to your food that do not improve the flavor?

Prepackaged Fortification

To some people, "fortify" is a four-letter word. It suggests additives or impurity. It's true that many over-processed foods are stripped of nutrients. These foods are often enriched with supplemental vitamins and minerals to bring them back to at least the pre-processed level. In marketing "health" to the consumer, the food industry is adding vitamins and omega 3 to many foods that are unhealthy to begin with. Adding vitamins to a chocolate cupcake may please your conscience but it won't flatten your belly. The Grocery Manufacturers Association has this to say about fortification:

    "Many ingredients added to food have substantial health benefits for consumers, providing consumers with well-substantiated claims about food's functional benefits can play an important role in promoting public health." [1]

The growing list of the heart-healthy and brain-enhancing foods are more enticing than less fortified products. But do these they really work? "We’re giving a lot of attention to Alzheimer's and we're all worried about cancer," says Dr. Marc Siegel of New York University Hospital in New York City. "So as soon as we hear [about] something that may ward off cancer, we want it. But we have to be very careful, because these things have not been studied scientifically, and we must rely on true scientific research to tell us what’s good and what can really help us and what dose can really help." When considering whether to purchase prepackaged fortified foods, nutritionist Joy Bauer says consumers should first answer three questions:

  1. Is this food healthy to begin with?
  2. How meaningful is the claim?
  3. Do you really need this additive?

So the value of prepackaged fortified foods depends upon whether they were originally good for us and if we actually require the vitamins and minerals that have been added to maintain our health. This is where a registered dietitian can provide useful direction for our individual needs and goals.

Self-Fortification

Flax seed (omega 3), wheat germ, protein powder, blended spouted silken tofu or nuts and various seeds don't add an abundance of flavor to foods but they do provide essential nutrients. The "Superhero Foods" table below is worth featuring again.

"Superhero Foods" For Vegetarians and Vegans [2]
Food Source Vitamins And Minerals
Spinach Fiber and most of the vitamins and minerals commonly found in meat products, including calcium, iron, zinc, and folic acid
Lentils Contain protein, fiber and complex carbohydrate, iron, some B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and zinc
Soya Beans Protein, some B vitamins, polyunsaturated fat, iron and fiber
Tofu and Tempeh Protein, iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus
Quinoa Carbohydrates, protein, fiber, various forms of Vitamin B, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, copper and manganese
Rolled Oats Good source of protein, thiamin, niacin, iron, fiber and carbohydrates
Wheat Bran Excellent source of soluble fiber, iron and carbohydrates
Wheat Germ Vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium, thiamin, phosphorus, and zinc
Dried Apricots Beta-carotene, calcium, fiber and vitamin C
Almonds Monounsaturated oil, protein, calcium, iron, fiber and vitamin E
Seeds Sesame and Sunflower Seeds: protein, rich in calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin E, magnesium and phosphate

Items in this non-comprehensive table make a useful short shopping list. Though important to us, the items are not restricted to vegetarians. Everyone needs vitamins and minerals. It's best if we can get them from natural whole foods rather than supplements. But, in the absence of sufficient nutrients within the foods we buy, fortification and multivitamins may keep us A Bit More Healthy.

So where do you stand? Is fortification evil, necessary or a necessary evil? In your comments below, I invite you to share ideas or recipes that include natural ingredients used to fortify meals. Perhaps you add banana slices to cereal for potassium. I put flax seed in brown rice and also mix it in with hot cereal to boost omega 3. It would be especially useful if your recipes have pictures that could be pinned on Pinterest. (Links within comments are moderated).

Tags: dieting, eating healthy, functional foods, nutritionally beneficial, nutritionists

References
  1. Are vitamin-fortified foods healthier? today.msnbc.msn.com ^
  2. The 10 Superheroes of a Vegetarian Diet. mindyourselfchicago.com ^