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Food Claims: What does "Fortified" & "Enriched" Really Mean?

Aug 18, 2010 BY Joy McCarthy

Claims are often made on packaged foods as a way to convince you it may be healthier and you buy it. For instance, "low in fat", "low in cholesterol", "fortified with iron or calcium" or "enriched with vitamins". Here's a quick guide to some of the problems with these claims.

What is Fortified?

Fortified means that a nutrient has been added to the food because during manufacturing it was removed, or it was never naturally present. They tend to be isolated nutrients that studies have been shown are deficient in our diet ie. iron.

The problem with fortification is that the natural synergy of nutrients is lost with they are taken separately like this. What I mean by this is natural foods contain many nutrients that the body can easily recognize because they are in their natural state and therefore, you can easily digest and absorb. There are literally thousands of nutrients and phytochemicals that work together in a perfect state of harmony. When you isolate one, the body simply doesn't recognize it the same way.

Furthermore, foods are fortified using the cheapest form of a nutrient that your body cannot even absorb. Remember, it's to sell the product, not to make you healthy. Calcium and vitamin D are great examples of this. Usually the type of calcium used is calcium carbonate which is poorly used by the body and can lead to a build up of calcium deposits that can cause health problems. Calcium uptake is affected by magnesium, vitamind D, boron, fibre and many other nutrients that occur naturally in foods.

Nature has a way of getting it right that packaged foods simply cannot replicate.

Vitamin D is another great example. Many beverages fortified with D are using the absolute cheapest form of D, vitamin D2 which your body does not recognize or absorb. Don't waste your money.

What is Enriched?

Pasta (and rice) is a great example of this. During the processing of the grain, virtually all the B vitamins are removed, plus most of the minerals, all of the fibre and good fat, leaving you with a starchy, highly refined product with very little nutritional value. By law, food manufacturers are required to add back the B vitamins. However, the form of these vitamins is not the same form they were naturally present in the grain before it was refined.

Just look at the label of any white rice or white pasta product and you will see all the B vitamins listed. Buy whole grain pasta or brown rice and you certainly won't see vitamins listed. Why? Because whole real food doesn't need to add what is already naturally present!

Remember, healthy food doesn't need a health claim! If you are confused with what's healthy and what's not healthy just eat real food and you won't have to decipher the mixed marketing messages.

Aug 18, 2010 BY Joy McCarthy
24 Comments
Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday   •   August 18, 2010

What's the best form of vitamin D?

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joyousness   •   August 18, 2010

D3 is the form you want to take in supplementation - liquid or capsules is much better than tablets.


Kristen   •   August 18, 2010

This is a great post! Very enlightening. I have a question: I;m a huge believer in food over supplements, but do you think this means we need to increase the volume of food we eat? Do you think that the quality of our food products are high enough to attain proper nutrition without supplementation of fortification?

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joyousness   •   August 19, 2010

Thanks Kristen. I agree, food before supplementation always. If you don't have a good diet then supplements are a bit of a waste. This is why supplements are in addition to a good diet, however most use them instead of eating nutrient dense food. Also, I am a big believer that no supplement can replicate the synergy of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that you get from a whole food! If you eat food in as close to it's natural unrefined state as possible you maximize your nutrient intake.


Heidi   •   August 18, 2010

Great post. I'm just reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food which talks about this same thing.

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joyousness   •   August 19, 2010

Love that book!!


Bill   •   August 18, 2010

I'm with you on eating real foods. What is your take on vitamin supplements?

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jasna   •   August 25, 2010

Hi, Thank you for your sweet comment, I LOVE reading your tweets and website with all your great tips! Have a lovely day xx

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SEM   •   April 20, 2013

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yeh   •   April 7, 2014

in which foods vit D is there, i am suffering from severe Vit D and calcium problem,i had removed whole thyroid gland and now suffering from Para-thyroid problems.Please help

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Joy McCarthy   •   April 8, 2014

You may want to consider supplementing with vitamin D3 as it is not abundant in foods. However, fish, seafood and eggs, cod liver oil are all sources of vitamin D. As for calcium, I would suggest you eat more nuts and seeds, leafy green veggies and consider taking a good quality multivitamin. Hope that helps!

Chandler   •   May 21, 2015

Hi Yeh, Our bodies are amazing, did you know that the deep layers of our skin produces vitamin D with exposure to sunlight? Many do not realize that fact, so consider how often you are out in the open and how much of your skin you expose. Remember, Ultraviolet rays damage the DNA structure of our cells. There are two classifications we are all aware of, UVA and UVB rays, these are the wavelengths that damage the DNA in our cells as well as the proteins that make our skin elastic (young looking). Even if you protect yourself from the harmful rays you will still benefit from increased production of Vitamin D within your skin. Have you noticed that VItamin D milk is sold in store? The Vitamin D is required for our bodies to absorb calcium from our diets. As we age we lose the ability to absorb calcium, women lose this ability at a younger age. Due to this fact we often see women show signs of osteoporosis sooner than men. Do yourself a favor, protect your body with sunscreen, get in the sun, and eat/drink calcium rich whole foods. Your friend, with a BS Biology degeree.


Mark   •   December 23, 2015

Great article

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Peter   •   February 20, 2017

Um, in response to getting vitamin D. The sun is our source for vitamin D and it has been here way longer than skin cancer and chemicals we put on our skin to "protect" us from it! I suggest you get as much sun as possible and skip the sunscreen! All you are doing is baking in chemicals to your skin. Drop the dairy as well

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Rachel   •   February 21, 2017

Hey Peter! That's definitely true! The sun is one of our richest source so Vitamin D. However, here in the Great White North (Oh, Canada!) we cannot get Vitamin D from the sun during the Winter months so it's best to turn to whole food sources or a high quality supplement :) Rachel - Joyous Health Team

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Gary Taylor   •   May 6, 2017

You go girl

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Kamala   •   July 22, 2017

This post was very useful! Thank you so much! It really helped me for my Food and Consumer lesson!

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Rachel Molenda   •   July 24, 2017

Hey Kamala, So happy to hear that :) Thanks for sharing! Rachel - Joyous Health Team


Manju   •   August 21, 2017

Thank u everyone on the above I learned more about vitamin D.

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Rachel Molenda   •   August 21, 2017

Hey Manju! Awesome - so happy to hear :) Rachel - Joyous Health Team


Nana   •   November 13, 2017

Thanks for the valuable information, I've been struggling with all this labeling on products. Now I know.

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Rachel Molenda   •   November 13, 2017

Hey Nana! Happy to hear you found it to be so helpful :) Rachel - Joyous Health Team


Regina   •   December 3, 2017

praise the Lord, thank you very much for that information. This is my first time using this site, but it probably won’t be my last.

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Rachel Molenda   •   December 4, 2017

Hey Regina! So happy to hear that :) We hope to see more of you around here! Rachel - Joyous Health Team


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