Ingredient lists work like recipes. They tell you what went into the food container. All ingredients are named in the order of their weight, the largest amounts listed first. Food manufacturers include additional information about the source of the ingredients, such as the type of grains, oils, cheese cultures, and spices. Also included are any chemicals for coloring and preservation that were used.
Plus the extra benefits
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all health claims to be supported by scientific evidence. Such claims usually link food or food components with the increase of health benefits or decrease of risks for certain chronic diseases. A newly released grading system designates the qualification of health claims (grade “A” being the best and “D” being the least qualified).
Calcium and osteoporosis: Sufficient intake of calcium may help prevent osteoporosis and strengthen the structures of bones and teeth.
Dietary fat and cancer: Limiting total fat intake may help reduce the risk of some cancers.
Saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease: Keeping saturated fat and cholesterol levels low may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Fiber, heart Disease and cancer: Grains, fruits, vegetables, and other high fiber foods may help lower the risk of heart disease and certain forms of cancer.
Sodium and high blood pressure: Avoiding high levels of sodium may help prevent hypertension and lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Folate and neural tube birth defects: Women taking a daily dosage of 400 micrograms of folate lower the risk of giving birth to children with neural tube defects.
Any particular diet can only be considered as one factor in risk reduction or prevention of certain diseases. Environmental hazards, hereditary conditions, and excessive use of alcohol, nicotine, and drugs may cause health problems as well.
The truth about nutrient content claims
What is the meaning of “free,” “low,” “lean” and “light?” F.D.A. regulations spell out the admissible use of nutrient content claims such as:
Calorie-free: fewer than 5 calories per serving
Sugar-free: fewer than 0.5 grams per serving
Fat-free: fewer than 0.5 grams per serving
Trans Fat-free: fewer than 0.5 grams per serving
Sodium-free: fewer than 5 milligrams per serving
Low-calorie: 40 calories or fewer per servin
Low fat: 3 grams or fewer per serving
Low-saturated fat: 1 gram or fewer per serving
Low-sodium: 140 milligrams or fewer per serving
Low-cholesterol: 20 milligrams and 2 grams saturated fat or fewer
Lean and extra lean (for meat, poultry, seafood, game)
Lean: fewer than 10 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 95 milligrams cholesterol per 100 grams.
Extra Lean: fewer than 5 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 95 milligrams cholesterol per 100 grams.
Nutritionally altered products carrying the label “light,” contain one third fewer calories or half the fat of the “regular” version of the reference food. The term “light in sodium” can be applied where the sodium content has been reduced by 50% or more. “Light” can also describe characteristics, such as texture and color (e.g. “light brown sugar” or “light and fluffy”).