This might be an alien term for you but this plays a very important role in our lives. This is something that we all should know about especially if you are someone who loves to buy packaged foods. Oftentimes, we get into the trap of marketing claims such as ‘100% organic’, ‘chemical-free’, ‘nutrient-dense’, etc. and buy a product. Some products might be worthy but in many cases, these label claims are false and put your health at risk. This is why everyone must know about common health washing claims and how to detect health washing.
What is Health Washing?
Health washing is a term that is used for brands who portray a product as healthy when it is not. These products are sold as ‘good for health’ but they are actually doing more harm and therefore, causing illnesses. Most of the products that market themselves as healthy may be having hidden harmful ingredients. Health washing is also when a product doesn’t disclose the list of ingredients in it.
Here are some common health washing claims that you may read on product labels:
- Low calorie
- 100% Organic
- 100% Natural
- Made with all-natural ingredients
- Free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives
- Fortified with vitamins and minerals
The aim of these claims is to gather the attention of buyers and make them believe that they are buying a healthy and nutritious product. Generally, manufacturers hide the other ingredients that might be harmful under these claims. For example, something that is projected to be sugar-free might be having artificial sweeteners instead of sugar which are equally disastrous for health. Watch this post of celebrity Nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar as she decodes health washing for us.
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5 Ways to Detect Health Washing
Here are seven ways with which you can detect if a product is really healthy or just illustrated as one.
1. Check all the ingredients
First and foremost, read all the ingredients carefully and not just the highlights on the label. If you are concerned about your health and what goes inside your body, make it a habit to check the ingredient list both front, side and back. This helps in finding out if the exciting claims are true or not.
2. Ignore Nutrition Label
The nutritional facts panel is nothing but misleading. You would get fascinated by seeing the numbers or percentage of various nutrients. If something is less, some other thing might be more. If fat is less, there are chances that there may be more calories in it. If there are good fats, there might be bad carbs too. So, be watchful but don’t get overwhelmed with the long list of nutrients on the label.
3. Organic and Natural doesn’t mean it is healthy
If the food is naturally or organically sourced doesn’t mean that it is healthy too. Even if a product is organic, it means it doesn’t have chemicals or insecticides but it may have additives or preservatives to increase its shelf life. Perishable items that have a very long shelf life contain preservatives that are not good for health. So, natural is NOT EQUIVALENT to Healthy.
4. Bigger Claims, Darker Secrets
The bigger claims a company makes for their product, the more layers they have hidden. If you find a product packaging with flashy claims, do not believe in them, in the first place. Secondly, check detailed ingredients and do not miss out on * information that are mentioned in very small letters that easily goes unnoticed. Those who make big claims are generally false claims.
5. Check natural flavours and colours
Even if a product may not have additional colouring and flavouring agents added to them, this doesn’t make them natural. Have you ever thought that why canned or tetra pack juices look so fresh and vibrant in colour, because they have gone through processing? These are marketed as real fruit juices but how can natural fruit juice look fresh and flavoursome for months!
These were some of the tips that would help you detect health washing. Because we easily believe in advertisements, it becomes easier for brands to sell their products with fake claims. So, next time you buy anything that is touted as ‘healthy’, make sure to check all of these aforesaid points before making the purchase.
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