Many foods are either enriched or fortified with vitamins and minerals.

What does enriched mean?

Enriched means that vitamins or minerals have been added to the food. The vitamins and minerals are added to replace the original vitamins and minerals that were lost during the refining process. For example, if the food originally had iron, but the iron was lost during the refining process, the food will be ‘enriched’ to add the iron back into the food.

Consumers often think enriched means ‘added vitamins and minerals’. This assumption is incorrect. Enriched merely means to replace what was lost during the refining process.

What does fortified mean?

Fortified means that vitamins or minerals have been added to the food in addition to the levels that were originally found before the food was refined. When foods are fortified, they will have more vitamins and minerals after they are refined than they did before they are refined. Common fortified foods are: milk (fortified with vitamin D) and salt (fortified with iodine).

Iodine is added to salt to help prevent Iodine Deficiency Disorders.  Iodine is necessary for a healthy functioning thyroid gland. Too little iodine can produce a thyroid enlargement known as a goiter. It is important for pregnant women to receive adequate amounts of iodine. Deficiencies in iodine can also impairs fetal brain development.

“Fortified” is often misused by companies who produce cereal and fruit drinks. Cereal boxes will often say ‘fortified with essential vitamins and minerals’. The cereal usually contains high amounts of sugar. Adding vitamins and minerals to the cereal gives it more nutritional value, but it doesn’t change the high amount of sugar that is present. Be sure to read labels for ingredients, and look at nutrition labels for sugar content. Don’t be misled by health claims and statements about fortified vitamins and minerals.