According to the 2007 World Food Prize Laureate Philip E. Nelson, “If you teach a person how to process [or package] food, you can feed a village.” But how nutritious would the food in this village be?
Most of us are aware that packaged foods offer convenience and cost-effective benefits, but are you aware of the added nutritional benefits of packaged foods? A recent review commissioned by the American Society of Nutrition outlined how packaged foods contribute to nutrition by serving as rich sources of many of the nutrients we need such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
How do packaged foods offer added nutritional benefits? Mainly through fortification. Fortification of foods has taken place in the U.S. since the early 20th century when health care providers noted that nutritional deficiencies caused chronic health problems. Starting in the 1920s, iodine was added to salt as a preventative measure against goiter. In the 1930s and 1940s, milk was fortified with vitamin D and calcium and thiamine, and niacin, riboflavin, and iron were added to flour.
The beneficial impacts of fortification have not stopped there: In the late 1990s folic acid was added to various foods to prevent neural tube defects in embryos. Recent packaged foods have been fortified with fiber, probiotics, and antioxidants, all of which have been shown to support health.
Since many of us do not meet the daily requirements of certain healthy components like vitamins (such as vitamins A, C, D, and E), minerals (such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium), and fiber, turning to packaged foods may help us meet our daily nutrient requirements and promote overall health.