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What is Food Fortification? Here’s All You Need to Know

Food fortification and enrichment is the process of adding nutrients that were lost during processing back into the food. But are fortified and enriched food actually healthy for us? Let us find out.

Aarushi Chadha

Food fortification and enrichment is the process of adding nutrients that were lost during processing back to the food. It is also the process of adding nutrients to foods that do not naturally occur in them. Certain food items are fortified and enriched to improve the nutritional profile and add health benefits.

Advantages of food fortification:

Provides the body with essential nutrients- Fortified and enriched food provides our body with essential nutrients that our body requires to function properly. The process of fortification is essential as it prevents nutritional deficiencies that could otherwise reduce our quality of life. For instance, salt is fortified with iodine and iron to prevent anemia and thyroid imbalance.

Beneficial during pregnancies- Pregnant women belonging to lower or middle-income groups who are unable to afford the most nutritious and healthy foods can really benefit from fortified foods. Foods that are enriched and fortified with zinc, folate, iodine, and iron promote the neural development of babies in the womb. Such foods also lower the risks of congenital deformities in babies and even improve the pregnant person’s health.

Promotes the health of elderly people in society- Our body and organs begin to deteriorate as we grow older and it becomes tougher for our digestive system to absorb nutrients properly. Therefore, elderly people commonly suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Fortified and enriched foods help maintain proper nutrient levels in elderly people for healthy organ functioning, better digestion, and stronger bones.

Helps with children’s growth and development- Deficiencies of vital nutrients such as iron, vitamins A, B, C, and D, calcium, and zinc can cause serious physical and developmental growth issues. Doctors usually recommend fortified foods and dietary supplements to children to help fulfil their nutritional requirements, improve their growth, and promote overall health.

Safe and cost-effective- Many countries consider fortified and enriched foods as a safe and cost-effective way for improving diets, and preventing and controlling micronutrient deficiencies.

Disadvantages of food fortification:

Inappropriate nutrient levels for children- Studies show that the fortified nutrients added to the food can put younger children at risk of overdosing on vitamins. This is because most fortified foods available in the market contain levels of nutrients that are appropriate for adults and not children. Therefore, foods that are not specifically fortified and enriched for children can be unsafe for them.

Added to unhealthy foods- A lot of time the food products that are fortified and enriched in the first place are not healthy and are heavily processed. Such foods are often high in sugar, sodium, fats, and other ingredients like additive preservatives which can lead to excessive weight gain and irritate the gut.

A healthy diet requires diversity. While fortified foods do provide us with essential nutrients, they are certainly not the only source. A healthy diet must contain fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dairy, and meat in order for our body to absorb all essential nutrients. The process of fortification and enrichment is meant to tackle the issue of lack of basic nutrients from our diets because of overly processed foods and chemically dependent cultivation practices.

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