Has this ever happened to you? You’re walking down the supermarket aisle and you pick up a product labeled “Healthy.” But as you read the list of ingredients, something doesn’t quite add up. Or you’ve done some reading about healthy eating and you decide on a food regimen that seems right for you, only to read a new study a week later that contradicts everything you thought was true. Suddenly your healthy eating choices don’t seem so healthy after all!
Confusion and misinformation about what does and does not constitute “healthy eating” are widespread. That’s the conclusion from the Food Information Council Foundation’s annual Food and Health survey which was released just a few days ago, and which was the subject of this interesting article that appeared on the website of CNN. The headline says it all: “‘Healthy’ Foods Have Most of Us Confused.” In other words, if you’re baffled by conflicting claims about what types of foods make up a healthy diet, you’re not alone. Fully 80 percent of people responding to this survey say they have found conflicting information about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid.
What’s even more revealing, according to CNN, is that, because of all the so-called facts that seem to contradict each other, more than half of us are finding ourselves second-guessing the food choices we’re making. All that barrage of information and misinformation is creating skepticism, so much so that even reputable sources of nutritional information are suspect. According to one of the survey’s co-authors, “Americans rely on many different sources for their information when it comes to what foods to eat and what foods to avoid. Not all of these sources are really highly trusted, and it is likely that these sources share inconsistent information.”
The survey involved just over 1,000 adults and asked questions about healthy eating habits and basic nutritional facts. The research showed that, even though most people think dietitians and health care professionals are the best source of reliable nutritional information, most of us still turn to friends and family for guidance on our food choices. This reliance on untrained and biased sources, the study suggests, has the effect of perpetuating misinformation, especially in this day and age of websites and talk shows touting their own food-related recommendations. “Trusted nutrition information is hard to find,” said one doctor quoted by CNN, “and the public is inundated with conflicting messages, including from dubious sources.”
Some healthcare professionals think all this biased information and conflicting recommendations about food might be contributing to America’s twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes, including prediabetes. One doctor from the Cleveland Clinic said bluntly, “Two-thirds of us are overweight or obese.” Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Fifty percent of Americans have either diabetes or prediabetes by age 65.” She adds, “That means that whatever we’re doing, it’s really not working. So it’s proof that, yes, people are confused.” In spite of their best efforts, she says, we consumers are not making good food choices that will allow us to live healthier, longer lives.
Even the word “healthy” is itself part of the confusion. According to CNN, in 2016 the FDA tried to narrow the definition of the word “healthy” when used on food labels. “For a food product to be marketed as healthy,” says the article, “it should have low levels of total and saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol, and have at least 10% of the daily requirements for vitamins, fiber and other nutrients, according to the FDA’s current criteria.” Unfortunately, nutritionists claim, this definition leaves such a broad loophole that some highly processed foods have been labeled as “healthy” when in fact they are not. Eating too much processed food, especially with added sugar, and skipping healthy whole grains, vegetables and fruits can be a recipe for a health crisis later in life, which explains why we see so many unhealthy, overweight seniors these days.
So here are a few recommendations from your friends at AgingOptions. First, avoid “food fads” and stick to common sense. When it comes to eating right, do your homework, getting your facts from reputable sources and not from your untrained friends and relatives. (The dietary guidelines on this government website are a good place to start.) When you shop for groceries, spend more time on the outer areas of the store, buying fresh produce, whole grain baked goods, fresh eggs and healthy, lean meats, and avoid the processed foods down every aisle. Finally, as Rajiv strongly recommends, make sure your insurance carrier provides access to a nutritionist. “Not all carriers allow you to self-refer to a nutritionist,” he says, “but some do. Pick a company that will give you access to good nutritional advice and also membership in a health club. Don’t just pick the cheapest premium! Good health involves healthy eating, regular exercise, and plenty of socializing. Your insurance carrier can be part of the solution.”
When it comes to retirement planning, AgingOptions can definitely be part of your solution. Come to one of our free LifePlanning Seminars and you’ll see firsthand how your health needs, your housing choices, your legal protection and your financial security are all interrelated. You’ll also learn the importance of involving family members early on to help make certain your loved ones will support your retirement wishes. Don’t base your future on misinformation or incomplete and inadequate planning! Spend a few hours with us at a LifePlanning Seminar and you’ll never look at retirement the same way again. For dates, times and online registration, click here, or contact us during the week. We’ll see you soon!
(originally reported at www.cnn.com)