We add extra information to the typical food/nutrition label because 1) it’s important to convey that LeafSide products are whole-foods plant-based, not processed; 2) the current standard food labels can be extremely misleading: their original intent was to force transparency from processed food manufacturers, but the label information is well behind nutrition science’s state-of-the-art, and relying on them exclusively deepens confusion not just about LeafSide meals, but about nutrition generally (a much larger concern).
First, when you go food shopping, you don’t see nutrition facts labels on fruits, vegetables, and other produce because they are whole, unprocessed foods, without chemical treatments and additives, and thus exempt. Because those label-exempt whole ingredients are all we use in LeafSide meals, it would suffice legally for us to just list the ingredients, but we show the macro- and micronutrients to customers for the sake of familiarity. Nevertheless, we’d want folks to understand that all LeafSide meals are:
- 100% whole plant foods, with dried whole foods being considered unprocessed — especially freeze-dried ingredients that generally preserve over 90% of measured nutrients, including macronutrients, micronutrients, and critical phytonutrients. Per Dr. Greger’s definition of “processed” foods and his green/yellow/red classification, nothing bad was added and nothing good removed, from our ingredients.
- Free of any added sugar or oil. The sweet meals (smoothies, sweet-bowls) are SOS-free, i.e. no added sugar, oil, or salt. Savory meals use a small amount of salt, for a baseline good taste that discourages the common habit of adding more salt. Alternatively you can request SOS-free versions of any LeafSide savory meal.
- Free of any animal or processed saturated fats, which are strongly associated with worsening cholesterol (thus raising heart disease risk), and lipotoxicity (increasing type 2 diabetes risk), while also bringing unwanted toxins like pesticides, growth hormones, glycotoxins, etc. By contrast, plant fats in their whole form are generally clean, and loaded with supporting antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber. Even with the whole plant foods containing the most saturated fat (e.g. coconut flakes), the fiber and other nutrients counteract the bad effects of saturated fats. But this kind of “package deal” of foods is not at all conveyed on current food label standards.
Second, the other broad reason we modify current nutrition labels, is that they otherwise promote an outdated way of thinking about nutrition, over-emphasizing the macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) and some select micronutrients, while completely ignoring the growing tidal wave of evidence in nutrition science, that we need far more nutrients to be healthy and thrive:
- Thousands of powerful phytonutrients like flavonoids that protect us from disease;
- Antioxidants that keep our cells functioning optimally and prevent cascades of cellular damage, that would otherwise be unavoidable;
- All delivered in the abundant fiber of whole plant foods, that supports our gut microbiome which in turn nourishes us.
A label that would enable proper comparison across the whole spectrum of known nutrients, would simply not fit on any normal sized package. As just one example, consider grape juice vs soda: the nutrition labels seems similar, but the actual contents and effects on our bodies are radically different! Grape juice, of course, is a processed food (we lost the skin, pulp, and fiber), and already a few steps removed from its whole food form — yet still brings many, many phytonutrients to us.
So, while we work on better ways to convey the true, full nutrition value of whole plant foods, we also want to promote better mental models about nutrition.