Informational Articles

Why Doesn’t the FDA Consider Salmon, Avocados, or Almonds Healthy?

Low-fat chocolate pudding gets a free pass, though.

KORIN MILLER

You may have heard about the warning letter that the makers of KIND bars received from the Food and Drug Administration in March about their use of the word “healthy” on their labels.

The FDA specifically targeted KIND Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot, KIND Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut, KIND Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, and KIND Plus Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants for their saturated fat content.

Now, KIND has filed a Citizen Petition with the FDA, with support from nutritionists and public health experts, for the government agency to update its definition of the word “healthy.”

The FDA has strict regulations and requirements for food labels using buzzwords like “light,” “excellent source of,” and “lean”—and “healthy” is also regulated. (Although, interestingly, the FDA is pretty lax on what the word “natural” means.) For brands to use the word “healthy,” they currently must meet the following nutritional requirements:

•    Have less than three grams of fat per serving
•    Have less than one gram of saturated fat
•    Contains at least 10 percent of daily vitamins

But…what about foods that are high in good fats like avocados (which have 21 grams of fat and 3.1 grams of saturated fat per cup), salmon (which has 11 grams of fat and 2.6 grams of saturated fat per three-ounce serving), and almonds (which have 14 grams of fat and 1.1 grams of saturated fat per ounce)? They’re SOL under current FDA guidelines, even though Federal Dietary Guidelines and nutrition experts recommend that we eat them because they’re good for us.

(On the flip side, foods like low-fat pudding and sugary cereals can use the word “healthy” under these guidelines.)

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF KIND

“The current regulations were created with the best intentions more than 20 years ago, when the available science supported dietary recommendations limiting total fat intake,” Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO of KIND, tells Womenshealthmag.com. “We’ve conducted more than half a year of research studying this topic and gaining a thorough understanding of the related nutrition science, dietary guidance, and regulations. The petition reflects a broad base of support within the food science and nutrition community to call attention to the importance of eating foods made with wholesome and nutrient-rich ingredients.”

The petition comes at a time when there is increased pressure from the nutritional community for the government to back off of dietary fat guidelines and acknowledge that not all fats are created equal.

In June, a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association argued that there is growing evidence shows that eating foods that contain healthy fats, like nuts, fish, avocados, and olive oil, can protect us against certain diseases, while many low-fat and fat-free foods can be worse for us than full-fat versions.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (a group of independent scientists who review scientific literature on nutrition and give nutritional recommendations to the government) also didn’t propose restricting how much fat we should eat daily.

For now, the KIND bars cited by the FDA do not contain the word “healthy” on their website descriptions. Will that change? We’ll see…

2 thoughts on “Why Doesn’t the FDA Consider Salmon, Avocados, or Almonds Healthy?

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