How to Read Food Labels: Part 1
It may seem like a no-brainer, but have you ever really found out the right way to read a nutrition label? If you’re not looking at them, you should! And if you are looking at them, are you reading them right? Here are a few tips for helping you to decode a nutrition label, which is the first step to getting healthy and proper nutrition!
The Basics: Serving Size
This offers you a quantity of how much is equal to one serving and how many servings are in a package. All the information this label provides is based on one serving, so if you eat two servings then you have to multiply all of the numbers by two to find out how much of what you are actually taking in.
This is how much energy you get from a serving of this food. Foods that have few calories but a lot of nutrients are called nutrient dense foods and it’s usually a good choice.
The whole point of eating food is for our bodies to absorb the nutrients it provides. Not all nutrients are created equal, however. Here are a list of the nutrients you commonly find on a nutrition label.
Fat is good for you, but it has to be the right kind. Good fats provide fatty acids that help the body control inflammation, blood clotting and support proper brain development. Unsaturated fat is good for the heart and can be found in things like olive oil.
Saturated fat and Trans fat, however, should be avoided. Saturated fat is usually found in meat and dairy. You should consume some saturated fats, but too much can contribute to conditions like heart disease.
Trans fat is the worst and should be avoided. These are man-made fats that have been linked to diabetes, heart disease, cardiovascular disease and other health risks. If you see “partially hydrogenated oil” on an ingredients list then run far away. Even if the label says it has zero trans fat, if you see that on the ingredient list just walk away.
This is an important nutrient for controlling your hormones, but too much can cause damage to arteries and can cause cardiovascular disease.
Sodium regulates the blood pressure and blood volume in your body, but it still something you need to limit. Normal adults should have 2300 mg a day while those with high blood pressure should only consume 1500mg per day. If you start paying attention to how much sodium you’re consuming, you’ll probably be surprised!
Carbs have a bad reputation, but they aren’t all bad and you actually need them. They are your body’s number one source for energy. There are two types of carbs: processed and whole grain. Stick with whole grains as much as possible. They have more fiber and nutrients and will treat your blood sugar better than highly processed carbs.
We’ll continue this lesson next week with more about food labels and what you need to know!