Have you ever picked up a container or read a food label that said “Enriched” or “Fortified”? Perhaps you’ve seen it on the box of your favorite cereal or your milk carton? Both words sound good but do you really know what they mean?
Both terms mean that nutrients, usually vitamins and minerals, have been added to the food to make it more nutritious. So what’s the difference?
“Enriched” means that nutrients were lost during processing and these nutrients were later added back, “enriching” the food product. A good example is found in B Vitamins. These energy boosting vitamins are typically lost when wheat is refined so they are often added back to white flour after processing. Eggs can also be enriched with omega-3s (remember those? I mentioned them before) by modifying the diet of the chicken or hen. This type of enrichment has a wide reach since more people eat eggs than eat fish, a natural source for omega-3s.
“Fortified” means adding nutrients that are not naturally found in the food. Milk is usually fortified with vitamin D to help your body absorb milk’s calcium and phosphorus. In addition, most enriched grain products are now fortified with folic acid (also a form of Vitamin B) to reduce the risk of certain birth defects.