Orange juice with vitamin C and calcium, nutrition bars with added vitamins, and energy drinks. Americans spend billions of dollars on fortified foods every year. Consumer Reports takes a closer look at downside of foods with added nutrients.
Consumer Reports came up with a hypothetical list of all the fortified foods that a person might eat in a single day. And then we calculated how much you’d get of certain nutrients if you did that.
Say for breakfast you have two cups of coffee, cereal, orange juice, plus a multivitamin and a couple of calcium chews. A little later you eat a nutrition bar. For lunch you have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and lemonade. Then you drink a mid-afternoon protein shake. A while later you have an extra-strength energy drink. Finally, you eat macaroni and cheese for dinner.
Here’s what that adds up to:
You’ll consume almost four times the recommended calcium for the day. Consumer Reports says that’s too much of a good thing. If you consume excess calcium over time, you could end up with problems like constipation, kidney stones, and possibly impaired absorption of iron and zinc.
Your total caffeine consumption is around 470 milligrams, more than the recommended daily limit of 400 milligrams. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia, a rapid or abnormal heart rate, and increased blood pressure.
And the sample diet has five times the recommended amount of folate, which can mask a B12 deficiency.
Consumer Reports says you want to be careful not to take in too much vitamin C, either. It’s added to lots of foods and can lead to intestinal problems. Look at labels to make sure you’re not getting more than 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day.
The bottom line is that you really need to read labels on fortified foods to make sure that you’re not getting too much. Just because some of a vitamin or mineral is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more is better. And a balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, should provide all of the vitamins and minerals you need—no fortified foods necessary.