Does your diet require fortification?
with Dee Taylor, Nutritionist
Fortification, by the addition of vitamins and minerals to foods, aims to reduce shortfalls in everyday dietary intakes. Some people purposely seek out these products looking for a nutritional advantage but on a general level, food fortification provides benefits to people at risk of dietary deficiencies. Vegetarians, pregnant women and people who omit whole food groups from their diet are just a few who benefit from fortified food products. Even if you don’t intentionally buy them, check the food labels on your current foods in your fridge and pantry; you may be surprised to find you already consume them.
In Australia, fortifying certain foods are mandatory to address a public health concern, such as with a population vitamin and mineral deficiency or those that affects a large proportion of the population or it can be voluntary where vitamins or mineral are added to a manufactured product. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) oversee the amounts added for fortification purposes and require food manufacturers to supply evidence for health claims on their products and they must be labelled. This is why it is always important to read your food labels – you should always know what you are eating.
Below are examples of vitamins and minerals used for fortification in Australia.
Folic acid – this is a mandatory and added to wheat flour used for making breads, bread rolls and muffins (organic breads do not require this).
Iodine – iodized salt used in bread making (again except in organic breads).
Plant Sterols – these can be (but not always) used in margarines, low fat milks/cheese/yogurts.
Do you need to buy non-mandatory fortified food products?
This is where you need to reflect on your own dietary intake. Do you get an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals in your existing diet or do you limit certain foods that have significant health impacts?
If you drink more juice than milk, you may want to consider looking for one that has added calcium. Another is iron-fortified bread and cereal products. If you fail to eat an adequate amount of iron in your diet through sources such as red meats, lentils, beans or leafy green vegetables having a low-sugar cereal or bakery product that has iron added may help to increase low levels.
Omega-3’s fatty acids are essential for brain development and heart health and can’t be produced in the body and need to be sourced in our diet. They are commonly consumed when eating oily fish, tuna, sardines, nuts, seeds and oils such as canola, flaxseed and even olive oil. If, however, you are vegetarian, don’t eat seafood and have a low intake of plant-based sources, omega-3 fortified eggs, yoghurt, juice and even milk are available. These are only just a few examples to highlight that fortification is available in everyday foods and that you don’t need to look hard to source them. They are becoming more expansive with more and more products are becoming available in our supermarkets – go for a walk down the breads and cereal aisle and you will see you are not short of fortified choices!
Even though readily available, you may still be questioning whether fortified products are right for you? Having a nutritious healthy, balanced diet from a variety of food sources is always the best way to try and meet your body’s vitamin and mineral requirements but this is not always possible. Reflect on your own diet, learn more about what nutrients your body needs and the food sources they are derived – and importantly, look around at the supermarket, read your labels to know what you are eating. If you do however feel you are nutritionally deficient or could benefit from healthier eating habits, consult with your health practitioner or nutritionist for advice on dietary improvement strategies.
Information sourced: Food Standards Australia New Zealand.