What are Fortified Foods?

Fortified foods in the simplest terms is adding micro nutrients to a food.

Why/when did we start fortifying foods?

Fortification has been used for over 80 years in replacing lost nutrients in food.  According to Wilipedia, “Food fortification was developed to begin decreasing the incidence of nutrient deficiencies at the global level.”  Lack of proper nutrients can cause fort food4of host of health problems.

One of the first examples of adding micro nutrients to food was in the south in 1900 where where niacin or Vit B3 was added to grits to help combat pellagra. The addition of Vit D to milk in Canada almost eliminated childhood rickets (source). The best way of avoiding micro nutrient malnutrition is to eat a balanced diet of every nutrient.  Unfortunately this is not possible since it would mean everyone in the world would need access to adequate food.   Since people, especially in poorer countries, tend to eat the same foods they lack these basic vitamins and minerals, therefore serious diseases are still prevalent.  For example the avereage person should get 1200 mg  of Calcium each day.  That equates to 2 glasses of milk, an orange, a serving of yogurt and a half cup of almonds!  And that’s just calcium.

What vitamins/nutients are often added?

In 1998, the FDA made in mandatory to add folic acid to enriched breads and cereals with the goal of reducing neuro tubal defect in babies.  According to a Centers for Disease and Prevention controlled study it went down 25% from then until 2004.  The most common micro nutrients added are Vit A, Vit B, Vit C, Vit D, Iodine, Zinc, Folic Acid, Calcium, Selenium, Fluoride, Thiamine and Niacin.

But is it healthy?

Our food manufacturers and their high paying chemists in their lab coats see dollar signs at every turn.  And unfortunately what started out as a means for getting the basic nutrients and vitamins globally to the poorest of people to prevent horrible diseases has turned into yet again a billion dollar industry.fort foods1

Most processed foods in the supermarket have had something added to them.  You can find added fiber in your bread and yogurt to calcium in your pasta.  Omega 3 has been added to everything from waffles to peanut butter!  According to Packaged Facts, these foods represent a $30.7 BILLION dollar market and are expected to grow another 40% over the next five years!  People are literally eating this stuff up.

The concern is people are choosing a processed food over it’s raw natural counterpart and thinking it’s healthy.  “Processing destroys nutrients, and the more processing there is, the more destruction you get,” says Marion Nestle, author and professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.  For example, choosing the calcium fortified pasta over a glass of milk.  The milk would be the better choice because the pasta has been made from enriched grains and processed.  Even sports drinks have been fortified with vitamins but still contain an alarming amount of sugar, which seems to get overlooked by the vitamins.

Eating too little of a vitamin can lead to deficiencies.  Eating too much can lead to health concerns.  The overly aggressive way the United States is fortifying their foods now can potentially lead to health issues, but it’s too early to tell.  In Canada they are conducting tests to see how much nutrients Canadians are getting from their daily diets.  Once they can assess this they can better understand if consuming these fortified processed products will result in intakes that are too high – which can lead to many health problems.

Here’s an interesting article from The Independent about Vitamin D becoming an issue in the UK due to the people avoiding the sun for fear of increased cancer  risks.  Kellogg’s is now adding Vit D to all it’s cereals in response.

What to do?

My advice, as always, is to eat food the way nature intended it to be, not processed, not made in a lab and no preservatives or chemicals added. The truth is most people do not get the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals.  The addition of micro nutrients to food was to help in that.  However, it’s a double edged sword.  Eating too many processed foods can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well because you are filling up on high calorie, low nutrient types of foods.

If you find yourself making the same things over and over again, then it’s time to start trying new things.  Try new fruits this summer or look up a vegetable you’ve never heard of.  But whatever you do use food, REAL food as your primary source for vitamins and minerals.


www.World Health Organization.com

World Health Report, 2000. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2000.





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