Functional foods are gaining in popularity: big-name grocery product manufacturers like Kraft are making huge R&D investments in bringing these nutritionally enhanced foods to market. Likewise, customer demand for healthier, enhanced foods is surging.
But here's the real story on functional foods: most health claims on brand-name grocery store products are hogwash. Here's what I mean: take the most popular brand of strawberry milk powder. It's made primarily with refined white sugar, an ingredient known to promote obesity, diabetes, mood swings and ADHD in children. On the front label of this product, you'll find a claim about how it provides 100% of the daily requirement for calcium. This claim makes the product appear healthy when, in fact, it's a product made with ingredients that directly promote chronic disease. If anything, the label should say, "Diabetes in a can!"
Most of the health claims on brand-name functional foods are, in fact, misleading. The typical processed food product contains refined carbohydrates, hydrogenated oils, and various chemical additives like aspartame, MSG or artificial coloring. You can't make this product healthy by adding a tiny dab of calcium, iodine or lutein. The product is inherently unhealthy, and enhancing it with a few milligrams of something that's good for you doesn't offset the product's fundamental potential for harming your health.
In fact, the big food manufacturers really just exploit these health claims to sell more products, not to fundamentally make their foods healthier. They can take a highly toxic, disease-promoting manufactured food item, dose it up with extra calcium or soy, and slap a healthy-sounding claim on the front label, all with the full approval of the FDA.
If anything, food manufacturers hide behind these health claims, using them to camouflage unhealthy foods by adorning them with labels and claims that make them appear to be healthful. Meanwhile, the truly healthy foods aren't allowed to make any claims whatsoever. Spirulina, for example, which is an extraordinary health-enhancing superfood that contains phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and abundant protein, can't be sold with any health claims whatsoever. Yet instant chocolate milk made primarily with sugar can. How's that for food politics?
This is why I think health claims on brand-name foods are worse than useless -- they're actually misleading to consumers. But they're great marketing gimmicks, and people believe the claims, which is why the big food makers want to keep slapping these claims on their food products. The truth, however, is that virtually all the grocery products manufactured by the big, popular food producers are extremely bad for human health. They're made with an alarming variety of metabolic disruptors -- ingredients that interfere with normal human metabolism. Tossing in a few milligrams of ground of sea shells (calcium powder) doesn't materially improve the health of these products.