In some cases and especially at some stages of life, fortified or enriched foods may be an easy way to get some nutrients from food. Yet, it is very important to look at the ingredient list as, most of the time, those foods are also packed with sugar and additives which are not making the final product as healthy as we were expecting. The majority of people get enough of most nutrients, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. However, many adults are not getting enough calcium, magnesium, dietary fibre, vitamins A, D, E, and C. Older adults and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to vitamin deficiencies. People with special diets also need to be aware of potential vitamin deficiencies. Vegans, for example, can benefit from foods fortified with vitamin B12. However, adults can over consume certain vitamins with enriched or fortified foods, especially if they are also taking supplements.
Pregnant women and older adults can get too much vitamin A. It can cause birth defects, and high levels of vitamin A have been linked to hip fractures in older adults. While many women still have low folate intake, foods fortified with folic acid can cause over consumption. In some cases, fortified or enriched foods are helpful. They can fill the gaps and increase a particular vitamin and mineral consumption that would otherwise be less than the recommended value.
But it's also easy to get too much.
These foods can contribute to nutrient overdoses. So here are some tips for you:
- Be aware of how much of each nutrient you are eating.
- Don't forget to include foods that don't come with a nutrition label, like dark leafy greens.
- Keep an eye on serving sizes to make sure you're not overdosing on added vitamins or minerals.
- The typical diet is already full of nutrient-poor processed foods, added sugars, and refìned grains.
- Avoid foods that contain added sugars, trans fats, or are high in sodium.
- You cannot rely on fortification or enrichment to get all of the nutrients you need. I rarely tell people to seek out fortified or enriched foods unless they are at risk for a deficiency or already have one.
My approach is to recommend as many whole, plant foods as possible to obtain nutrients in their original, natural form and then fill in any gaps with targeted recommendations. Processed foods are the ones most often enriched, which may encourage people to consume more processed foods, not less.