Here's a confession: I've been writing about nutrition for years, so I'm well aware of just how good salmon is for you-but I'm not wild about it. In fact, I never eat it or any other fish. While I'm spilling my diet secrets, I might as well admit a certain brewed green beverage is not, well, my cup of tea. But I worry: By skipping salmon, one of the foods highest in heart-protective omega-3 fatty acids, and green tea, with its cancer-fighting antioxidants, am I seriously shortchanging my health?
Turns out I'm not the only one with that concern. That's why food companies have pumped new products full of disease-fighting compounds identical to those found in some of the world's healthiest fare. Fortification-adding nutrients to foods in which they're not naturally present-is hardly a new idea. It started in 1924 when salt got an iodine boost; not long after, vitamin D was added to milk and iron to white flour. But today manufacturers are going beyond adding vitamins and minerals. They're enhancing their products with supernutrients whose purpose isn't to simply protect against nutritional deficiencies, but to actively prevent disease. For instance, the live and active cultures, or good bacteria, in yogurt can now be found in boxes of cereal and energy bars. And the same form of heart-healthy omega-3s in seafood is being added to cheese, yogurt, and orange juice (minus the fishy flavor). "Over 200 fortified foods have been launched in the past year alone, with many more in the pipeline," says Diane Toops, the news and trends editor of the trade publications Wellness Foods and Food Processing. "You can't miss seeing them at the supermarket- they're in almost every aisle."
But whether they should be in your cart is another matter. "In many instances you'd be smart to buy these products," says Roberta Anding, R.D., a Houston-based spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "But they're not for everybody-and you have to be careful that you aren't so swayed by the addition of the supernutrient that you forget to ask yourself whether you should be eating a lot of that type of food in the first place." We worked with Anding and other experts to help determine which of the newest fortified foods to take to the checkout- and which to leave on the shelf.