The New Food Fixes

Are foods with added vitamins really healthier? We sort through the hype.

By Bari Nan Cohen

Bottom line: "People who eat large amounts of fish and other foods with omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, and zeaxanthin have a reduced risk of macular degeneration," says Emily Y. Chew, MD, of the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Turns out carrots, despite their reputation, aren’t the best bets for your eyes. "There’s a little lutein in carrots, but you can get more from dark green leafy vegetables," Chew says.

Decoding Food Labels

Foods labeled as addressing a specific need in the diet fall into various categories. Here’s a quick guide to the labels.


Foods that have not been modified in any way, such as produce, fish, meats, and whole grains. They set the standard against which other foods are measured.


Foods that are processed, such as wheat when it gets turned into white flour. Nutrients are often lost along the way.


Foods in which a nutrient lost in processing has been added back in. For example, the B vitamins in wheat get lost when it is processed into flour. Adding B vitamins back in classifies the fl our as "enriched."


Foods to which nutrients that don’t occur naturally have been added during processing. Examples are flour with added folic acid, milk with vitamin D, and salt with iodine.


Plant-based foods that have been genetically modified.

Originally published in MORE magazine, March 2008.

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