How to read Nutrition Facts labels and Nutritional Ingredients
The Nutrition Facts labels are just a starting point for educating yourself about what is in food you're considering buying.
Just as a point of reference, the less processed it is, the less likely it will even have a label! Ever see a Nutrition Facts label on an orange?
Actually, unless you buy organic, that's too bad.
Oranges are supposed to have 90 mg. of Vitamin C in them. However, because of mass producing, hot houses, picking early to transport, and genetic engineering, there is now little or no Vitamin C in that orange!
But, I digress (for good reason)! Back to the topic at hand.
Nutrition Facts labels are fairly self explanatory. Here are a few key points you must know.
First, the serving size. All the other information on that label is for the serving size. So, if you're buying a bag of chips, and the serving size is 15 chips, the calories listed is for those 15 chips.
Total fat is the next item and is divided up into what kinds of fat. Saturated, Trans Fats, Polyunsaturated, and Monounsaturated. Whew! If it contains less than 1% 'per serving' it doesn't have to be listed. Yet, if you eat 2 servings you may be getting some.
"Good" fats (which can be found in nuts and fish for example) are really the only fats acceptable.
Cholesterol is not really an issue. What?! Did I just say that?
Yes. Read this carefully. Your body produces much more cholesterol on a daily basis than you eat. One of it's functions is to repair blood vessels. Cholesterol is produced when your blood vessels are inflamed. They are inflamed when stressed and malnourished (primarily not enough Vitamin C, L-lysine, and L-proline).
"Good" fats help to normalize this inflammation which allows your liver to rest and quit producing so much cholesterol!
Sodium is next on the Nutrition Facts labels. Here's a ticklish subject. Many people are told, by their physician, to reduce their sodium intake. OK, go ahead and do that, with processed foods. That's alright. However, we need sodium to function! Quality sea salts will provide that need without harm. Sea salts are just a form of trace minerals.
Here's a liquid supplement that provides trace minerals without trying to figure out which sea salt is best!
Total carbohydrate is next: What I find interesting, is the fiber. Did you know you can subtract the fiber from the total carbohydrates? If you're watching your carbs, get items higher in fiber.
Sugars are often the highest part of total carbs. What else is interesting? The total carb amount does not tell you what else it's counting. If you get pop-tarts, the label says there are 37 grams of total carbs. Fiber is less than 1 gram and sugars are 19 grams. Where do the other 17 grams come from? In this case, the enriched flour (first ingredient listed).
Protein is next. Is it quality protein? The more processed, the less likely that is. A "free range" chicken or raw nuts provides higher quality protein than the oils in pop-tarts.
Try to balance your protein and fiber. Rule of thumb? 20-30 grams of protein per MEAL. 20 grams of fiber per DAY. If you snack, try to get 2/3 protein and 1/3 fiber.
Taking a fiber supplement can help, and with plenty of water. Higher fiber and protein diets without adequate water intake will often result in constipation!
Do not eat sugars without fiber. Fiber slows the rate of sugar absorption which allows your body to adjust more naturally. Taking in sugar without fiber causes your pancreas to secrete too much insulin. That leads to insulin resistance which leads to Type II diabetes.
Now let's look at some nutritional ingredients. The first ingredient is the most present. With one exception. If an ingredient is listed with different names (such as "sugar" and "dextrose" which are the same), that ingredient could be the most present!
Put it back on the shelf if it has these words: "Enriched", "High Fructose Corn Syrup" (or any version of those words), "Spices" (typically these are flavor enhancers or excitotoxins added to stimulate your senses so you'll eat more), "artificial" anything, "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated", "nitrites" (or any version of that word), or a color (yellow, red, blue - these are artificial colorings that come from some pretty interesting places - even bugs)!
Here's a link to look up other ingredients with a special note: they color code the ingredients. For example, "whey" is coded green, which means it's beneficial. Some people don't tolerate milk byproducts, so for them, it is not beneficial. It's also not beneficial to type I diabetics!
Another example is "inulin". This can be beneficial, but recently found also to be beneficial to some harmful bacterias.
So, with that said, check out the link for general guidelines:
Nutrition Facts labels: Labelwatch glossary
Always compare Nutrition Facts labels of common foods side by side. For example: Hodgson Mill whole wheat whole grain pasta lists it's only ingredient as 100% durum whole wheat - the label says 6g fiber, 9g protein - great! But the Hodgson Mill veggie bows ingredient is "Enriched" semolina, tomato, beet and spinach powders - the label says 1g fiber and 8g protein. Which would you choose?
If it's fat free, or reduced fat, it most assuredly adds sugar!
Read those Nutrition Facts labels, and when you find you cannot eat those foods you've always bought, go to the produce section! A great organic salad with a spritz of real lemon tastes yummy - try it!
Here's a great food pyramid for wellness!
Honest Food Guide
Click here: Lifetime Fitness gives more valuable information!
Return from Nutrition Facts labels to Home page