Nutrition labels aren’t hard to understand once you know what they mean. In fact, you’re already doing it right now by looking at the ingredients in food products before buying them.
There are many people who feel the same way as you. Saturated fat, trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, carboxymethylcellulose, sodium hexametaphosphate…it’s too much to take in. We need to make sure you understand what’s safe for you to eat and what isn’t.
When people read nutrition labels, they look for different reasons. Whatever the reason, it’s always a good idea to take care of yourself. Make sure to read the labels on the food you eat.
Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about nutrition labels.
Start off by looking at the serving size, which is the exact measurement that all the calories, fats, sugars, or sodium pertain. If the serving size is one cup, for instance, all the amounts apply to that measurement. The 150 calories in that serving size of one cup double if you eat 2 servings. Chances are that one package, bag, or bottle of something is not one serving size.
The next thing people often see are the calories, which can be detrimental if not in control. Calorie counts let us know the amount of energy we will get from a serving size of that food. A lot of Americans overeat as a result of portion distortion.
The nutrition section of each nutrition label can help people count calories if they are trying to lose weight. The average U.S. diet is 1,800-2,200 calories for adult women and 2,000-2,500 calories for adult men.
These are average calculations that vary based on physical activity and health conditions. Remember: If you are trying to lose weight, it’s best to eat between 1,200-1,500 calories per day.
Most Americans consume too much salt. You should restrict your daily sodium intake to less than 2,300mg (about one teaspoon).
You can cut your sodium intake down by eating low-sodium versions of canned soups, frozen meals, and frozen snacks. Avoid salt as much as possible; it can cause high blood pressure, cholesterol, or atherosclerosis.
If you add salt to your food, you should look for natural salts that are good for you and not the usual table salt.
There are good fats and bad fats. Unsaturated fats are acceptable to consume, in moderate amounts of course. It’s smart to put back any items with saturated fats or trans fats on the shelf. These two can increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and decrease your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
If your nutrition label says there’s “saturated fat” on it, check the ingredient list to make sure it actually has the real thing. Because of a labelling loophole, companies can put 0.5g of trans fat per serving, even if the product says it is fat-free.
How to Check: Check the ingredients to see if there are any hydrogenated oils. If there are some, the product has some trans fat in it.
Sugar has many names, so be sure to double-check the ingredient list to make sure the sugar is listed in one name or another.
There are many added sugars or sweeteners, including aspartame and high fructose corn syrup, that should be avoided. When making low-calorie sweets, natural sweeteners like stevia or organic agave are best.
Sugars can be found in unexpected places such as in unhealthy cereals, salad dressings, and unexpected foods. Sugar is hidden in many foods. Beware of sugar in products you buy at the store.
Sugars, fibre, and refined carbs (avoid these) are all carbohydrates. Carbs are a great source of energy if you select the right ones to consume.
Refined carbs, found in foods such as white pasta and refined sugar, are best avoided because they provide an energy “high” and lead to weight gain and other health problems.
Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet that are rich in fibre will improve digestion, boost energy levels, and help you eat less.
Vitamins & Minerals
Most Americans aren’t getting enough vitamin A or vitamin C. Make sure you look for these every day and take a supplement if necessary.
Eating healthy foods is the best way to ensure you get enough vitamins and minerals needed for good health.
A lot of good food groups contain these important minerals. You can also use herbal products to get the vitamins and minerals you need.
Ingredients are on the label for a reason. They’re small for a reason too!
Many people overlook the ingredients in their food, but this can be dangerous to their health. The most significant ingredients in the food are listed first. If the ingredient isn’t easy to pronounce, avoid it.
Look for short ingredient lists with easy-to-understand ingredients.
Conclusion: How To Understand Nutrition Labels
Nutrition labels are a lot to take in, but hopefully, this article helped you understand them a little better.
There’s no doubt that the most important thing to keep your body healthy is what you put in your body, so make sure you read those labels!