Last year I posted an article that explained the unique language of the gym. Mostly acronyms, so you can spit them out really fast and then hit your next set. Or, so I like to joke. However, my marketer's brain has recently started noticing more buzzwords in the grocery store than anywhere else I've ever been. Our diets are especially susceptible to the corporate rat race that permeates so many other markets in the world. Slapping "no-cholesterol" on a jar of Skippy (which isn't allowed anymore) is all good and well because it's a plant product... of COURSE, it has no cholesterol. However, what about all of the other buzzwords that have popped up on our food packaging? Are all of them marketing ploys, or are there some good buzzwords? Let's take a look!
Wait, hold up! Doesn't this site have a current series called "Superfood of the Month?" Yes, yes, it does, but it's a buzzword. The difference here at The Fit Pauper is I don't use it to claim some almighty healing property of food. I'm not saying eat this, and you'll be cured of a debilitating disease. Instead, I'm using this buzzword to promote foods that are a well-rounded addition to your healthy diet, foods that have a rich history in civilization, and individual foods that can deliver a premium of goodness for your whole being.
So, watch out for those trying to sell something with the term superfood. There are indeed foods that are super, but there are not foods that carry a cure-all within them.
2. Detox & Cleanse
Ok, if you've been here before, you may have seen my article on Detoxing. If you want to pee out all your money with these over-vitaminized, over-priced, and over-sold programs... well, more power to ya.
If you want to go with the juice cleanse, take a look at this chart real quick:
See, they're just selling something that you don't really need to detox or cleanse, and none of it is sustainable. Skip the diets, juice, magic pills, pink drinks, those tea shops that are popping up everywhere with the word nutrition in them, and little bottles with promises of big results. Instead, make whole foods, fruits, and veggies part of your diet. It'll still be cheaper than throwing your money down this buzzword pit, and your body will detox itself. Note: If you don't believe your body is functioning correctly... maybe go see your doctor.
If you're one of those crunchy parents, please hold your rage for a moment that I'd call organic a buzzword. However, it really is... AND THAT'S NOT A BAD THING. This particular buzzword has some clout. Organically raised milking cows produce milk that's a bit higher in nutritional benefit. They aren't treated with hormones, spend months grazing grass from the pasture, and can only be given pesticide-free, chemical fertilizer-free, and genetic modification-free!
Organic vegetables can't be treated with synthetic pesticides. However, they can be treated with natural pesticides. So, be sure to give them a scrub before prepping. Because of all of this extra attention and certification, you'll probably pay a bit more for this buzzword as well. Is it worth it, though? In many ways, yes. It cuts down on your consumption of synthetic pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. However, if the price is out of your grasp, stick with other whole non-organic foods. Highly processed foods can be labeled as organic as well. Organic junk food is still junk food.
How is this a buzzword? Well, mostly because of sites like mine. We (nutrition coaches) talk a lot about processed foods. What is processed food, though? By definition, it is any food product that has been altered by an external process that changes its basic state. That means milled, frozen, canned, mechanically separated (gross), etc. So, not all processed food is created equal, and this buzzword can be both good and bad.
Frozen fruits and vegetables tend to retain more vitamins and minerals as they are frozen closer to the time of harvest, and they're considered processed food. Likewise, canned foods are also processed and generally contain much more salt than their fresh and frozen counterparts.
Then you have refined grains, whole grains, partially cooked stuff, instant oats, and other sorts of processing that take the nutrition, benefits, and even taste out of the product before replacing it with that long list of ingredients on the package.
5. Sprouted Grain
The war on carbs is still raging as if the Snackwell debacle never even happened. Plus, now we have a wave of gluten ditching (by choice or intolerance). However, what's up with this whole sprouted grain movement?
It turns out there is a lot going on with this buzzword. Sprouting is simply allowing the moisture and temperature to do nature's work of turning the grain (a seed) into a plant. This causes the texture, vitamin and mineral content, and taste to change in most cases. While most studies have been done on animals (the human studies are gaining traction), the health effects have been impressive. It's even been shown that sprouted grain can make those intolerant able to digest grains more easily.
However, be aware that sprouted grain on a package doesn't excuse overeating or identifying healthy-sounding junk food for what it is... junk food. Check out some Ezekiel bread or sprouted tortilla chips.
The buzzword to end all buzzwords. If you've even glanced at a device, health book, or magazine in your doctor's office in the past 5 years, you'll have seen something about Omega-3s somewhere along the way. What is Omega-3? They are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Pretty much means they're liquid at room temperature as opposed to saturated fats such as butter. Mmmmm... Irish butter. Anyhow, what can they do for you?
Turns out, a whole lot. These fatty acids have been proven to reduce inflammation, assist in cholesterol control, aid in satiety, lower body fat percentage, aid in liver health, mitigate the effects of asthma and arthritis, and protect your brain from all of that sugar you're pouring in your gob every day. When it comes to types of Omega-3s there are plant-based alpha-linolenic acids (ALA) in nuts and seeds, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are primarily found in fatty fish. Of these, you'll probably recognize DHA the most, as it's added to a great many of our everyday grocery items.
7. BPA Free
If there is one buzzword to look for in your meal prep containers or water bottles, it's this one.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical historically used to coat the inside of cans in order to deter the metallic flavor from seeping into your food. That's a good thing, right? Well, yes. When it comes to flavor, BPA saves the day. However, BPA also mimics certain hormones in the human body. Research has shown that this can cause men to grow breasts, increase obesity, and heighten the chances of getting certain cancers, ADHD, and infertility. This is even in populations that only ingest a bit of the stuff. Best way to avoid all of this? Look for that BPA Free lining in cans and food & beverage containers.
8. Whole Grain/Whole Wheat
These terms have really taken off in the past decade, but what makes them matter? Think cereal. No, not the overly colored, sugary sweet stuff you put milk on (you don't pour the milk first, do you, you monster?). I'm talking about cereal, namely grains. Little baby plants (germ) wrapped in an outer husk of fiber and nutrients. These layers are the bran, endosperm, and husk of the plant seeds. When wheat is milled down into white flour or brown rice is converted to white rice, the outer layers (as well as their fiber and nutrients) are removed.
This process leaves us with a simpler starch that is easier for our bodies to digest and cause an insulin response. The more intact a grain is when you eat it, the slower your body digests it and allows your system to keep up. That way, you won't find yourself on the insulin cycle of wanting more sweets/starches to deal with the leftover insulin floating around. Plus, you'll be loading your gut with great prebiotics and micronutrients to boot.
This buzzword is about as useful as the G in lasagna. It simply means that the product contains more than one type of grain. That grain doesn't have to be whole grain, it doesn't have to be organic, and it doesn't have to be Non-GMO. Just means there is more than one type in there. So, forget the multigrain and focus on the actual product you're buying because that doesn't mean much unless you're allergic.
Ok, this is one I swear by. Just tastes better to me, but what does it mean? It means that cows are free to eat grass and not caged up and fed a corn and soy diet as some cattle are in the agricultural process. The "you are what you eat" actually comes through, in this case, right down to the difference in taste. Grass-fed cattle are lower in fat, lower in calories, higher in Omega-3 compounds, and less inflammatory saturated fats. Opt for grass-fed, and look out for things like grass-finished.
I know it can be a bit offputting to think that every bite of food we're consuming might be covered in bacteria, but that's actually a pretty good thing... in most cases. The truth is you're constantly covered in trillions of microorganisms. Some of them are bad, and some of them are good. A probiotic is a bacteria or fungi (yeast) that is proven to aid the body in digestion, fighting off the bad bacteria, aiding the absorption of certain medications, and protecting your gut from harmful bacteria that may be riding on your next bite. You can find these helpful critters in most fermented and cultured food. Some foods high in probiotics are pickles, yogurt, cottage cheese, kombucha, kefir, or probiotic supplements. The most common types of probiotic bacteria on the market are Lactobacillus & Bifidobacterium.
Not to be confused with the good bugs that live in our body, prebiotics is food that nourishes and helps our probiotics thrive. They are carbs that our bodies just can't break down on their own and float along our system until they get to our superbugs to supercharge their growth in your system. So, make sure to stock up on fruits, veggies, and whole grains. All of them are chock full of prebiotic fibers for your good guys.