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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Making sense of food labels.



Reading food labels can be a real eye-opener, if you know what your are looking for.
-Nate
 
A typical supermarket offers about 20,000 different items. Food labels, now required by law on almost every food, can help you choose among the options available.
The most significant part of the new food labels is a new heading that reads Nutrition Facts. That is followed by a list of the serving size of that particular food and the servings per container.
The new labels have more consistent serving sizes that replace those that used to be set by manufacturers. There are mandatory and voluntary dietary components required on food labels. Mandatory data, per serving, listed in the order in which they must appear are: Total Calories, then Calories from fat.
The next mandatory portion of the label provides information about nutrients that are most important to the health of today's consumers and includes:
    • Total Fat (in grams) (and a percentage)
    • Saturated fat (in grams) (and a percentage)
    • Cholesterol (in grams) (and a percentage)
    • Sodium (in grams) (and a percentage)
    • Total Carbohydrates (in grams) (and a percentage)
    • Dietary Fiber (in grams) (and a percentage)
    • Sugars (in grams) (and a percentage)
    • Protein (in grams) (and a percentage)

and
  • Vitamin A (in a percentage)
  • Vitamin C (in a percentage)
  • Calcium (in a percentage)
  • Iron (in a percentage)
WARNING: Although this portion of the label is a significant improvement over the previous label which listed carbohydrate, protein, and fat in grams, it can still be misleading. One of the leading health promotion educators has a favorite saying that applies to food labels, "Labels don't lie, but liars write labels."
For example, if a label lists 260 total calories and 120 calories per serving, but under that lists total fat (still in grams) followed by a percentage, most consumers believe that percentage is the percentage fat of the food. In fact, if you look closely, you will see that percentage value is nothing more than % of daily value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. These reference values are intended only to help consumers learn good diet basics. If you don't eat a 2,000 calorie diet, the information is of little use to you.

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