How To Understand Nutrition Labels

Are you struggling to understand all those tricky terms on nutrition labels? Do not be afraid because you are not alone. Saturated fats, trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, caboxymethylcellulose, sodium hexametaphosphate, maltodextrin…it’s just too much to take in. We want to help you understand the foods you eat so you know whether you’re eating healthy or not. .

People look at nutrition labels for different reasons. Whatever the reason, it’s always a good idea to know what you’re putting into your body. Before getting to the ingredients, take the time to read the nutrition label. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about nutrition labels.

Portion: Start by looking at the serving size, which is the exact measurement to which all calories, fat, sugar or sodium relate. If the serving size is one cup, for example, all quantities apply to that measure. The 150 calories in this one-cup serving double if you eat 2 servings. Chances are that a packet, bag, or bottle of something won’t fit a serving size.

calories: The next, and often most important, thing people see is calories. The amount of calories translates to the amount of energy you will get from one serving of that food. Many Americans consume too many calories due to portion distortion. The calorie section of each nutrition label can help people count calories if they are trying to lose weight. In the average American diet, the standard daily calorie intake is 1,800 to 2,200 calories for adult women and 2,000 to 2,500 calories for adult men. These are average calculations that vary with physical activity and health conditions. Remember: If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s best to eat between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day.

Sodium: The average American eats too much salt. Your maximum daily sodium intake should not exceed 2,300 mg (about 1 teaspoon). If you are over 40 or have high blood pressure, it is recommended that you consume 1500 mg of sodium per day or less. It is best to avoid salt as much as possible, as over-consumption of salt can lead to heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension or atherosclerosis. If you add salt to your food, there are natural salts that are better for you than regular table salt.

Fats: There are good fats and bad fats. Unsaturated fats are okay to eat, in appropriate amounts of course. You want to restock something if it contains saturated or trans fats. Both of these factors can cause LDL (bad) cholesterol levels to increase and HDL (good) cholesterol levels to decrease. When looking for fats on a nutrition label, be sure to check the ingredient list as well. Due to a labeling loophole, companies can put 0.5g of trans fat per serving, even if the product says it’s fat-free. How to check: Check the ingredients to see if there are any hydrogenated oils. If present, the product contains trans fats.

Sugars: Sugars have many names, so be sure to check the ingredient list for names like galactose, dextrose, fructose, or glucose. There are also added sugars or sweeteners like aspartame and high fructose corn syrup, which should be avoided. Natural sweeteners like stevia or organic agave are best. Sugars can be in foods that are unlikely to add flavor. They can be found in unhealthy cereals or salad dressings. Beware of hidden sugars.

Carbohydrates: Sugars, fiber, and refined carbs (avoid them) fall under the carbohydrate category. Carbs are a great source of energy if you choose the right ones to eat. Complex carbs, often found in whole grains or fruits and vegetables, are much better for you than refined carbs. If you incorporate fibrous fruits and vegetables into your diet, you can help improve digestion, increase energy levels, and you’ll eat less because you’ll feel fuller.

Vitamins & Minerals: Most Americans don’t get enough vitamins A and C. Pay attention to these and be sure to get your daily dose. You can also eat fresh fruits and vegetables to meet or exceed your daily requirements for most of the vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. Potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron are great minerals, some of which are found primarily in avocados, dark leafy greens, raw nuts and seeds, or bananas, among many other foods. You can also take herbal supplements to get the vitamins and minerals you need.

Ingredients: The ingredients are on the label for a reason, and they’re small for a reason too! Many people overlook ingredients, some of which can harm your health. The most important food ingredients are listed first. If the ingredient is too difficult to pronounce, we recommend that you stay away from it. Look for short ingredient lists with easy-to-understand ingredients.

That’s a lot to take in, but hopefully it’s helped you better understand nutrition labels. If you have any questions about what is best to consume/avoid for your health, feel free to email or call us. We are here to help.

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