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Health Food Buzzwords that Don’t Mean Much

Food marketers love to put healthy-sounding words on packages, so you feel good about picking up their product. But while some buzzwords have weight behind them (for example, a product with the USDA Organic sign has met certain standards), others don’t necessarily mean what you might think. Keep your eyes out for these misleading phrases (and don't watch out for these 14 Banned Foods Still Allowed in the U.S.).

“Farm Fresh” Eggs
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Egg packages are full of misleading phrases, as this article from NPR on egg jargon points out. “Farm-fresh” and “all-natural” basically mean nothing. While other terms like “hormone-free” or “antibiotic-free” are true, they don’t tell you much since it’s illegal to give hormones to poultry and the egg industry rarely uses antibiotics. Speaking of eggs, find out Why their Price May Be Going Up Soon.

Multigrain
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More than one grain sounds like a good thing, but this is a case where more isn’t necessarily better. (The multiple grains might include white, processed wheat flour.) Instead, look for 100 percent whole wheat or 100 percent whole grain bread. (Did you know whole grains are one of the The Top 5 Foods for Healthy Hair?)

All Natural
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The FDA has no legal definition for the terms 100 percent natural or all-natural. People have sued when they thought the label was being used deceivingly, but the lawsuits have gone both ways. The FDA has said it’s wrong to use the term if a food has artificial flavor, color, or synthetic additives, but this leaves antibiotics, pesticides, hydrogenated oils, and “natural” food additives as game. Read why Consumer Reports Wants to Ban the Term “Natural.”

Gluten Free
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Thankfully for people with celiac disease, the FDA now has rules about gluten-free labeling. But we’ve seen the phrase on things that never have gluten in them, which is a marketer’s way of trying to make you think a food is good for you, since gluten-free has a health halo around it. (Thinking about going gluten-free? Read The Good in Gluten.)

Contains Antioxidants
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Antioxidants fight free radicals and reduce disease risk (see: What Do You Really Know About Antioxidants?). But junk food with antioxidants is still junk food, and the word tricks people into thinking packaged food products are healthier than they actually are, reports a study from the University of Houston.

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