Knowing How to Read the Nutrition Facts Label Can Save You time
and Help You Make Healthier Choices




A good understanding of the nutrition facts label can help you find the food nutrition information you're looking for and by knowing how to read food labels, you'll make healthy food choices more quickly when you're at the grocery store.


Nutrition facts label are required on pre-packaged foods. A better understanding should help you find out the nutritional value of the foods you eat, help you compare different products by indicating the amount of calories and nutrients in one serving of food.

Food nutrition information should include the ingredients list, that are listed in order of importance, the % of daily values, calories, the fat including saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates (fiber, sugars), protein and nutrients such as vitamin A, C, calcium and iron. Sometimes the nutrition label will include more nutrients and a footnote.

To have a balanced diet you have to limit your intake of fat, cholesterol and sodium and get enough of fiber, protein ans nutrients so knowing how to read food labels is a must!







nutrition facts label

Let's study each part of the nutrition facts label starting with...

Serving Size

  • Can be listed such as cups, ounces, pieces
  • Help you know the amount of calories and the other nutrients you intake per serving
  • If you have more than one portion you must increase the other values as well

% of Daily Value

  • By having a quick look at the nutrition facts label you can tell if there is a little or a lot of a specific nutrient per serving
  • This value is based on a 2000 calorie diet
  • 5% DV or less is low
  • 20% DV or more is high

nutrition facts label

Calories

  • It is a unit used in nutrition to measure the energy available for your body
  • It comes from fats, carbohydrates and proteins
  • Nutrition facts label gives you the number of calories per serving
  • Too many calories per day can increase the risk of obesity
  • Based on a 2000 calorie diet, 40 calories/serving is low, 100 is moderate and 400 is high

Fats

  • This nutrient provides energy to the body
  • The total amount of fat and % DV that you see on the nutrition facts label includes all types of fat i.e. saturated fat, trans fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat
  • If a product has 2 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat and a total fat of 6 grams
  • that means 3 grams come from mono and polyunsaturated fat ("good fat")

  • 65gr = 100% DV based on a 2000 calorie diet. Try to eat less

The saturated fat value....

  • 20gr = 100% Dv based on a 2000 calorie diet
  • You should limit your consumption of saturated fat per day

The trans fat value...

  • Trans fat comes from the partial hydrogenation process that converts liquids oils into a semi solid form
  • Consumption increase the risk of heart disease
  • Ideally your intake should be 0 gram
  • If a product contains 5 gr of trans fat or less/serving, the nutrition facts label may indicate 0. Have a look at the ingredients list and watch for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated and avoid the product
  • Trans fat is found in fried and baked foods and margarine

Cholesterol

  • Limit your intake to 200-300 mg/day which is 100% of the daily value

In conclusion choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol to help you reduce the risk of heart disease.

Sodium

  • Sodium is found in table salt
  • Sodium can be found in food additives such as disodium phosphate, sodium nitrate, sodium gluconate, sodium bisulfate, baking soda, brine
  • It is found, most of the time in large quantity, in processed foods
  • Too much sodium increase the risk of high blood pressure
  • 2300 mg = 100% DV so try to consume less than that

Carbohydrate

  • It's the "fuel" for the human body
  • It will convert to fat if not burnt
  • There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex
  • Simple carbohydrates or sugars are sweet in taste. They are easily digested by the body and the release of energy is quick. They are found in fruits, dairy products, processed and refined foods
  • Complex carbohydrates are long chain of simple sugars, which take longer to the body to digest so they are going to fill you and give you a long lasting energy
  • Insuline production may be affected depending on the type of carbohydrate that is ingested. With simple carbohydrates, insulin levels increase rapidly and carbohydrates provide energy quickly but this "sugar high" won't last long. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates take longer to be digested. They will provide a more sustainable energy.

Not enough carbohydrates can cause fatigue, muscle cramps, intellectual fatigue so it's important to eat the right type of carbohydrates to keep your boby "fueled". 300 gr is 100% DV based on a 2000 calorie diet but can vary depending on your daily intake of fat and protein.

nutrition facts label

The Fiber value...

  • Help you to digest
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Fruits, veggies and whole grains can contain 5 gr or more of fiber/serving
  • Reduce the amount of food consumed by a feeling of satiety
  • Provide a protection against colon and rectal cancer
  • Can prevent hemorrhoids
  • 25 grams=100% DV. You should at least consume this amount

The Sugar value...

  • This is what make your food sweet
  • Is low in nutriment
  • It will convert to fat if not burnt
  • Sugar should not be at the beginning of the ingredients list

Protein

  • They are vital and an important component of every cell
  • They are used to build and repair tissues, muscles (after intense workout), to make hormones, enzynes
  • Hairs and nails are made of protein
  • Your body can't stock proteins so you must eat protein every day
  • Source of protein are fish and seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, beans, nuts, whole grains

Nutrients

  • Look for foods that are rich in nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron

Footnote

  • The footnote is on the bottom of the nutrition facts label. It tells you that the % DV for each nutrient are based on a 2000 calorie diet
  • If the size of the nutrition label is too small the footnote will not appear

Nutrition Claims

Here are some nutrition claims that you can see:

  • Source of fiber= food contains at least 2gr of fiber/seving size
  • High source of fiber= food contains at least 4gr of fiber/serving size
  • Very high source of fiber= food contains at least 6gr of fiber/serving size
  • Low fat= food contains less than 3gr of fat/serving
  • Cholesterol free= food contains small amount of fat
  • Sodium free= food contains less than 5mg/serving
  • Light is a term used for foods that are low in fat ans calories

Health Claims

  • A diet low in saturated and trans fat can reduce the risk of heart disease
  • A diet with a good intake of calcium and vitamin D can reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • A diet rich in fruits and veggies can help reduce the risk of some type of cancer
  • Food low in sodium and high in potassium can reduce the risk of high blood pressure

The Nutrition Facts Label will not appear on:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Products that are prepared at the place where they are sold
  • Alcoholic beverage
  • Raw meat (except if ground), poultry, fish, seafood
  • Foods at the farmer's market
  • Foods for immediate consumption
  • Foods served in restaurant, cafeteria
  • Products sold at the deli counter
  • Not always found on package of herbs, spices, beans coffee, tea leaves

So looking at the nutrition facts label and reading the ingredients list is a good habit to develop. Often a product will have a catchy name that suggest it's a healthy product but it's not always the case.

Knowing how to interpret all that information will help you make better choices.

Et voilà!



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