We are more and more accustomed to seeing on the shelves of the supermarket products marked as “light”, “zero”, “low in fat”, “natural” and a host of advertising or health claims that, in theory, add value to those ultraprocessed that we put in our shopping cart.
Now, do we really know what these claims or nutritional claims mean? What is contained in the products that are advertised as such? We delve into each of them so you know a little more about the products you buy.
Many of the consumers, concerned about their health, but above all for their weight, have switched to the light or low-calorie options of many of the traditional products. Currently we can find a wide range of these light products in all supermarkets : from cheeses to jams, of course soft drinks , which perhaps have made the most effort to provide the consumer with a range of low calorie products.
In recent years, in addition, products labeled “zero” or “zero” have been eating ground to the traditional light in what refers to sales . Do we know how a light product differs from another “zero” or “zero”?
- Light products: the light denomination falls within the nutritional claims allowed by the European Union for food products. To be able to place this claim on a product, it must have a “big brother” that is the product without modifications (so that there is a Coca-Cola light, there has to be a normal Coke, for example), and the light version must contain 30% less energy value (30% less than kilocalories) than the original product, something that can be achieved with sugar substitutes based on sweeteners, or with fat substitutes.
- Products “zero”, “zero” or “0.0%”: currently there is no legislation that tells us what characteristics a product must have “zero”, “zero” or “0.0%” (the latter traditionally associated with the alcohol content of some beers ), only that it must always be accompanied by that ingredient to which it refers. For this reason, in the products denominated in this way, although we see the “zero” in large letters, we will always see a smaller text that complements it: “zero sugars”, for example.
This “zero” or “zero” is not a nutritional claim, but has a more commercial or marketing function : it is associated with products low in sugars or calories but not as oriented to the female audience as claim light, but more neutral. Likewise, they are associated with other colors (such as black in the well-known case of Coca-Cola) that distinguish this commercial niche.
What ingredients are “zero” products?
Generally, and if not indicated otherwise (“zero caffeine”, for example) the “zero” alludes to “zero sugars” : now that we are in the middle of the fight against added sugars in our diet, this is a very greedy claim (never better said) for brands.
Obviously, if our processed product does not have added sugars but it is still sweet, it is because it has some ingredient that compensates it: it is usually sweeteners that have to appear in the list of ingredients with their common name or with the corresponding E- ( here you can see what each of them is ).
A simple glance at this list in which the ingredients are in decreasing order as to their presence in the product, will give us a complete idea of the composition of the same .
Other nutritional claims that may appear in the products
The term light is not the only one that can appear as a nutritional claim in a product, but the European Commission has a long list of names that are likely to be placed on the different products processed to inform the consumer about what is going to buy and consuming .
Let’s see some of the most used in the different processed products:
- Low in fat: for a product to carry this nutritional claim, its fat content must be equal to or less than 3 grams of fat per 100 grams of product in the case of solids, or 1.5 grams of fat per 100 ml of product in the case of liquids (except semi-skimmed milk, which can carry up to 1.8 grams of fat per 100 ml).
- Fat-free or fat-free: in order to present this claim, the product must not contain more than 0.5 grams of fat per 100 ml or 100 grams of product.
- No added sugars: very common these days. This claim can only appear on products to which artificial monosaccharides or disaccharides have not been artificially added to modify their taste. In the case that it does contain natural sugars, it must also be clearly indicated on the labeling.
- Without salt or without sodium: products with this claim can only take it if the amount of sodium or salt does not exceed 0.005 grams per 100 grams of product.
- Fiber source: usual in cookies and cereals. To be able to say that a product is a “source of fiber” for our food, it must contain at least 3 grams of fiber per 100 grams, or 1.5 grams of fiber per 100 kilocalories.
- High in fiber: also common in cereals and cookies. For a product to be considered high in fiber it must contain at least 6 grams of fiber per 100 grams of product, or 3 grams of fiber per 100 kilocalories.
- Source of Omega-3 fatty acids: usual in canned fish. In order to carry this label, the product must contain at least 0.3 grams of alpha-linoleic acid per 100 grams of product or per 100 kilocalories.
As always, we remind you that what matters when evaluating whether a product is suitable or not for our food is not to look at a single ingredient, but to see the whole of everything that gives us . That a product is low in sugars does not mean that it is automatically healthy. In the case that you consume processed products, read the labels and ingredient lists, and do not stay alone with large letters.
If you want to make a simpler purchase, be based on food and not on products : foods that do not need labels or advertising or nutritional claims are the ones that can best go to your diet.