Food Label Literacy

Read it before you eat it!
Food Manufacturers are required by law to disclose certain information about their products through standardized Nutrition Facts panels. Although we see them every day, not everyone would agree that they are easy to understand. Here is some guidance:

Nutrition Facts Label

Every panel is divided into several sections. The top section contains product specific information, such as serving size, calories, and nutrients. This varies with each product. The bottom part is basically a footnote and provides general dietary data about nutrients.

Serving sizes are estimates of how much of a particular food item an average person would consume in one meal. They are measured in cups or pieces as well as in grams and milligrams. The servings determine all other values listed on the label. Our sample panel only counts for a quarter of what is in the container. Make sure you compare those numbers with what you actually use.

Nutrition Facts: Serving Sizes

Calories are the units that measure the energy produced when food is consumed. It differs with the content of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. In our example, one third of the total amount of calories comes from fat alone.

Nutrition Facts: Calories and Calories from Fat

Fat, particularly saturated fat and trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium are all nutrients with potentially negative effects on your health. While it would be nearly impossible to avoid them altogether, you ought to limit their consumption as much as you can. Observe your sodium intake, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease.

Nutrition Fact: Limit These Nutrients

This section of the panel informs you about the percentage each nutrient has in your diet, based on a recommendation of a 2,000 calorie diet. The %DV is a useful tool if you are uncertain about saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium limits. Try to keep your total daily intake under 100% DV. On the other hand, make sure you get enough complex carbohydrates as well as soluble and insoluble fiber.

Nutrition Facts: The Percent Daily Value

This is the good stuff. Sufficient amounts of fiber enhance regularity. Calcium can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Iron is good for your blood. Vitamins A and C are antioxidants that decrease the risk of heart disease and strengthen the immune system. As you can see, food labels not only warn you about certain nutrients that are potentially detrimental to your health, but also inform you about the benefits from others.

Nutrition Facts: Get Plenty of These Nutrients

Daily values in this section of the Food Label are based on 2,000 and 2,500 calories. This is an average estimate and may vary based on your age, gender, activity level, or during times of pregnancy and lactation.

Nutrition Facts: The Daily Values for 2,000 and 2,500 Calories

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