Tips For Reading And Understanding Nutritional Labels

September 6, 2012 Comments Off

Understanding nutritional labels may not be the easiest thing in the world, especially if you do not know what you are looking at. Below are some important elements of a nutritional label that every individual should be able to read and understand.

Serving Size
Typically, the serving size mentioned on a nutritional label applies to only one serving of that food item. The FDA is responsible for setting the serving sizes for all the different types of food and drink products. Nutritional labels are not recommendations, but rather measurements that show the total values of calories, fat, sugar and etc content in one package.

Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fat-like chemical. It is a vital part of the cell membrane which is essentially the covering for our body’s nerve-cell fibers. Cholesterol is also one of the building blocks of all our hormones. Cholesterol can only be extracted from animal products. According to the FDA, adults should have no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol on a daily basis. More than 300 milligrams can increase the risk of contracting a heart disease.

Fat
Rather than looking at the total fat in the serving, look at the total numbers for polyunsaturated, trans fat, saturated and monounsaturated fats. Purchase food items that contain very little traces of trans and saturated fat and more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.
Remember, when the label reads “fat free”, it does not mean calorie free. Most fat free products have added sugar so as to provide an energy boost.

Ingredients
The ingredients are always listed according to their quantity with the major quantifiable ingredients coming first. For example, when you check the nutritional label on bread, you will see that the very first ingredient mentioned is the grain (whole, oat, etc). Reading the ingredients is especially important if you are not able to have certain types of food.

Total Carbohydrates
This category shows all of the unhealthy carbohydrates in the product. Ideally, you should look at the fiber and sugar amounts in this category to get a better understanding of the overall health benefit of consuming the product.

Sodium
According to doctors, the recommended daily amount of sodium for an adult is 2,300 milligrams on a daily basis. If too much sodium is consumed, then it will lead to high blood pressure and ultimately, heart problems.
The USDA states that a food item is low in sodium only if it has no more than 140 milligrams per package. Typically, a frozen dinner or a bowl of soup has more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium which is almost half our recommended daily intake.

Potassium
Potassium intake is essential if you want to avoid high blood pressure problems in the future. On the other hand, low potassium intake can cause an irregular heartbeat to develop. Doctors say that the average adult should intake about 4,700 milligrams of potassium on a daily basis.

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