What is Enriched Food?

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An enriched food is a product to which nutrients have been added. Typically, the added nutrients were present in the food in its original form, but were removed at some point during processing. White bread is an example of an enriched food because certain vitamins are added after the bleaching process depletes them.

Examples: Pasta made with enriched white flour is an enriched food.

What Are Enriched Foods?

Enriched foods sound healthy don't they?

The word "enriched" makes it seem like something special has been added to the food to make it better. That definition of enriched foods isn't wrong. But it's not completely accurate either.

Many enriched foods have had ingredients removed and then added back in. For example, food makers may add B vitamins or iron that was lost during the food manufacturing process. Many people confuse enriched foods with fortified foods. According to the University of Chicago, fortified foods are foods in which nutrients have simply been added, not replaced.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, enriched foods and other functional foods "have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis at effective levels based on significant standards of evidence."  In short, that means that enriched foods may be part of a healthy diet that includes a variety of different types of food.

Fortified and Enriched Food Examples

To see if the food you eat contains enriched ingredients, simply check below the Nutrition Facts Label and scan the list of ingredients.  Many enriched foods are made with enriched flour. Cereals may be enriched with iron or you may see that your bread is made with enriched flour.

Pasta and tortillas might also be enriched foods.

You might also see the word "fortified" on the front of the package. For example, your orange juice may advertise that it is "fortified with calcium" or your cereal might brag that it is "fortified with iron." Or you may see the more general claim “fortified with essential vitamins and minerals.”  These statements all mean that ingredients have been added to increase the nutritional value of the food.

Are Enriched Foods Healthy?

Enriched foods can be part of a healthy diet, but enriched foods aren't necessarily or always healthy. For example, you may find yourself in the bakery aisle of your grocery store trying to choose a healthy bread. You can select a white bread made with enriched flour or you can choose a whole what bread made with whole grains.

If you get enough vitamins and minerals in your diet already, you may not need the enriched food. The whole grain bread may be a better choice because it increases your daily fiber intake

As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics statement recommends, functional foods like enriched products can be part of a healthy diet.

But it is the entire diet and not just a single food that promotes good health and wellness.

*This article was originally published on August 7, 2009. Edited by Malia Frey, About.com Weight Loss Expert

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