Do You Know How To Read Food Labels Properly?

Understanding how to read food labels will help take out the mystery of the foods you are buying.

Food labels can seem confusing at first, but learning how to read food labels is an important life skill that will improve your overall health.

By understanding food labels you can quickly tell if food is truly good for you or just appears to be good.

Keep in mind that the values on food labels are based on a specific intake of calories per day, usually a 2000 calorie diet.

If you consume more calories or fewer calories, you’ll have to adjust the values accordingly. You can discuss with your doctor how to make the appropriate calculations.

This article aims to give you some key understandings when it comes to reading food labels.

Serving size [1]

The serving size lets you know how much you have to eat for the nutritional information to be accurate.

If you were to eat only half a serving, then you’d get half the calories for example.

You’ll have to adjust the serving size to the amount you actually consume. You’ll also need to take serving size into account when comparing foods to each other.

For example, having less salt in food doesn’t necessarily make it better if the serving size is significantly smaller compared to another food.

Calories [2]

Calories refer to how much energy you’ll get from a single serving of that food.

The source of your calories (hamburger vs. salad) will determine how healthy they are for your body.

The best kinds of foods are high in nutrients (calcium, vitamin c, fiber, etc.) and low in calories.

When reading food labels, compare how much calories you’re getting to the nutrients. If you notice lots of calories and very little nutrients, you’re probably eating an unhealthy, “empty” food.

Fat [3]

Fat can be confusing to read on labels since there are three different types of fat. Trans fat, saturated fat and unsaturated fat.

Not all of these fats are bad for you, so you have to read the label carefully.

Trans fat is the worst kind of fat. It’s man made and is heavily linked to causing diabetes, heart disease and cardiovascular conditions.

Trans fat is produced by industrially made vegetable fats and has been in use since the 1950’s. This is the type of fat likely to clog your arteries. You’ll find this fat most commonly in junk foods.  It’s important to learn how to read food labels so you can avoid harmful fats.

Saturated fat is usually found in meat and dairy products, especially processed meats. You want to get a moderate amount of this type of fat in your diet.

Having high levels of saturated fat is linked to heart disease. Saturated fats raise your cholesterol, which your body needs, but high levels can cause problems.

importance of nutrition facts Occasionally eating saturated fat helps to provide balance in your body.

Unsaturated fat is good for your heart. Unlike other fats, it doesn’t solidify at room temperature.

Unsaturated fats have two primary forms, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Examples include Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats.

You can find unsaturated fats in natural foods like nuts and eggs. When reading nutrition facts, this is the best type of fat to include your foods.

Learning how to read food labels will help you find balance between all three types of fat.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol has a profound effect on how your cells operate and is necessary for all animal life[4].

Your cholesterol levels need to be balanced since high levels can cause serious illnesses such as heart attacks, strokes or the narrowing of your arteries, called atherosclerosis.

Keep a close eye on the cholesterol label and make sure you are not overdoing it.

Carbohydrates

Carbs are the top source of energy for your body. Whole grain carbs are ideal since they are long lasting, high in fiber and help to keep your appetite and blood sugar stable.

Processed carbs (white bread, chips) are burned very fast by your body. They also cause a spike in blood pressure.

If you’re looking at food that contains white flour, then look for lower levels of carbs.

However, if you’re buying whole grain or whole grain flour foods, then you can allow for higher levels of carbohydrates since they are better for you.

Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber helps with your body’ digestion process. Foods that are high in fiber help you stay full for longer.

If you are looking for foods high in fiber, the daily value should be above 20%.

Natural sources of fiber such as vegetables, fruits, wheatgrass or beans are the best sources of fiber.

Sugar

You want to make sure you keep your sugar intake under control. Most foods high in sugar lack other dietary positives.

Sugar can cause addiction, cardiovascular disease and has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Recommended levels of sugar are approximately 5% to 10% of the total amount of calories you eat.

Children should have no more than 19 grams of sugar per day. Adult men are recommended to not exceed 37.5 grams and 25 grams for adult females.

Protein

Proteins are used for energy, for your metabolism, for growth, and for repair. Proteins also help to form structures such as muscles.

Recommended protein levels are between 10% and 35% of your daily calorie intake.

Too much protein can be harmful to your liver and kidneys.

Poor sources of protein include burgers, sausages or ground beef. Good sources include egg whites, turkey, and fish.

food labels

Percent/daily value

This is the section that outlines the percentages of nutrients you are getting from a particular type of food. Under 10% is low and over 20% is high.

Pick foods that are high in fiber, vitamins a & c, calcium, and iron.

You should avoid foods with high percentages of sodium, cholesterol and trans fat.

Ingredients list

Ingredients are organized by how much is contained in what you’re eating.

The first ingredient is used the most, if the first ingredient is sugar, fat or something you can’t pronounce, then it’s probably junk food.

Sodium is not referred to just as salt but also sodium benzoate, disodium or monosodium glutamate.

Sugar can also be referred to as high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, barley malt syrup or dehydrated cane juice.

This makes it difficult to identify what you are eating sometimes. If you come across an ingredient you don’t know, make sure you look it up. [5]

how to understand and use the nutrition facts label

Part of learning how to read food labels will be looking up complex terms so you can recognize them in the future.

A lot of food manufacturers make fats and salts difficult to identify on nutrition labels, which causes people to think it’s ok to buy.

Check if partially hydrogenated oil is on the list of ingredients. This means the food contains trans fat, even if the daily value says 0%.

Speaking with a dietitian or doctor will help you find different nuances like this. Little nuances like these are the hardest part of learning how to read food labels.


Practice how to understand and use the nutrition facts table. Food labeling and understanding nutrition go hand in hand.

When reading nutrition labels look for nutrients and vitamins and avoid sodium, cholesterol and fats.

Use this article guide you in learning how to read food labels!

[Sources]

[1] – http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/HealthierKids/HowtoMakeaHealthyHome/Portion-Size-Versus-Serving-Size_UCM_304051_Article.jsp#.VnR4ysq08Q0

[2] – http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/types-of-fats-topic-overview

[3] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calorie

[4] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholesterol

[5] –http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Understanding-Ingredients-on-Food-Labels_UCM_433234_Article.jsp#.VnR3_8q08Q0

Posted by DME Library

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