Do you know what your food label is telling you? Most people (including myself some months ago) just barely know what we are really putting in our bodies. We take a quick look at the food labels just concentrating on the calorie intake they have, but what about the rest of the labeling?
Start with the basics
All food labels should tell you about the nutritional properties each product has. Nutrients you would normally find are:
- Total Fat (which divides into saturated fats, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fat)
- Vitamins and Minerals
It should look like this:
So we now we know what it is in the nutrition facts. Now lets learn how to read them!
Commonly the first fact the labels would show you is the serving size. The nutrition facts are for each serving size. For example, the picture above is the nutrition facts of Sunchips. It tells you each serving is the equivalent of 15chips/ 1 oz and the bag has approximately 12 servings. So those 140 calories are for every 15 chips. Imagine if you ate the whole bag in one sitting that would be 12×140 = 1680 calories. OUCH!
Just liked I said before this is what we normally focus forgetting most products have much more than one serving. Also like in the example above it would tell where does these calories come from. From the 140 calories each serving of Sunchips has 60 calories are just fat.
This is where the tricky part starts. Do you know the difference between good fats and bad fats? Saturated and trans fats are the one that level up our LDL cholesterol aka the bad one. So we need to stay away from those the most we can. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the good fats, the ones that level up our HDL cholesterol aka the good one, so try to get them as much as you can. What is a good amount of fat per serving? Approximately 5g per serving. You could take a quick look in total fats or just add up all the fats it mentions. The example shows us it has Saturated, Polyunsaturated, Monounsaturated and trans fat. You add up all of those and that is your total amount of fat. The example above has 1g of saturated fat + 2g of polyunsaturated fat + 3.5 monounsaturated fat + 0 trans-fat = 6.5g of fat per serving.
A food is consider adequate if it has under 20mg of cholesterol per serving anything above it is not recommended.
Sodium is measured in milligrams (mg). A small spoon of salt has 2,300mg of sodium which equals to 6g of salt. Regular people should ingest 2,300mg of sodium per day. So what would be a good amount of sodium per serving? Try to keep it under 200mg. How do we convert sodium to salt? Multiply the amount of sodium per 2.5 and then divide it by 1000. Example: 2300×2.5 = 5,750. 5,720/1000= 5.75g of salt.
You have to be careful when picking food with low carbs. Carbs divide in two groups: Complex and simples. Complex carbs are sources of vitamins and minerals, they can be found in bread, rice, vegetables, etc. Simple carbs are the ones that provide empty calories which mean they have low or no minerals and vitamins. Examples are sodas, candies and cakes.
A product is considering with high amounts of fiber if it has over 5g per serving. Smooths out digestion and absorption of glucose and fats in the small intestine.
Any product over 6g of sugar is consider very high. Most of the times products would not enlist sugar in their ingredients but will call it fructose, lactose, and sucrose.
This is the amount of protein per serving the food has and it is normally written in grams. (g)
Vitamins and Minerals
Through this you can evaluate the nutritional value of a food and see how much vitamins and minerals it has. The example above details very well the percent value each vitamin and mineral has.
%Percent Daily Value
This numbers represent the quantity of nutrients in diets which range from 2000-2500 calories.
The percent daily values represent what the serving has to apport considering a 2000 calories diet.
So after reading all this fact about what is consider good and bad in food labels. Would you still consider eating that bag of Sunchips? Or would you try to keep it to just a serving per day? Leave your answers in the comments!
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