What Are Fortified Foods?

The term fortified often pops up in a lot of health food conversations, but it seems to get lost in the sea of other well-being jargon. We're assuming a fortified food product is a healthy choice since companies are so quick to make the claim on their product's label. But what needs to happen for a food or beverage product to make the truthful claim that it is in fact, fortified?

Healthline states that when a food has been fortified, it means that nutrients have been added that don't naturally occur in the food. This isn't a new health trend. In fact, vitamins and minerals have been added to foods since the 1930's and 1940's. It's an older method that was originally introduced to boost the health benefits of already nutritious foods. Fortified foods appear to be just as needed in modern day, considering more than two billion people in the world have micronutrient deficiencies because they're not getting enough essential vitamins and minerals in their diet.

So what are the most common foods that have been given an extra dose of nutrition? Eat This, Not That lists milk, multi-grain bread, eggs, almond milk, whole grain cereals, yogurt, and even high end salt that as foods that are most often fortified.

Is a fortified food the healthiest option?

You'll also always want to ask yourself what foods have been fortified with. For example, Eat This, Not That reports that milk is often fortified with extra vitamin D and grain-based foods often get an extra dose of B vitamins, folic acid, vitamin A, and iron.

But just because a nutritious component has been added, it shouldn't be assumed that the food is healthier for you. Take fiber for instance. Eat This, Not That says the fiber powder often added to fortify a food won't be digested in the same way as the food's natural fiber source. It is also worth mentioning that added protein can cause extra bloating (which no one wants). And when enjoying a food that has been fortified with vitamin D, remember that it must be consumed with fat in order for the added nutrients to be properly absorbed.

So what's the verdict? Fortified foods sound like a great solution to society's issue with micronutrient deficiencies. And according to Healthline, these additions have helped the U.S. with vitamin and mineral consumption, but there is still more research needed to back the popular belief that fortified foods are the healthier option. Next time you see a label on a product that is claiming it has been fortified, check what's in the food —and make sure you're getting those added nutrients from other sources as well.