The other side of food
More than half of U.S. consumers are aware of the importance of
reading nutrition facts in order to improve their diet and prevent
heart disease. This was shown in a study conducted by the Food and
Drug Administration (FDA).
Furthermore, 64% of Americans look for nutrition information on menus, napkins, and tablecloths when they visit restaurants.
However, people don’t always rely on the labels. Many consumers are skeptical of “reduced fat,” “high fiber,” or “cholesterol free” foods.
Still, consumers want to know the amount of calories, salt, vitamins, and fat in the products they buy. “Food labels give consumers the power of comparing easily, in order to judge for themselves which products adapt to their dietary needs,” said Barbara Schneeman, Ph.D., Director of the FDA Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements.
Learning to Read the Label
For those with no experience, reading the food label can be a little cumbersome. Finding so many values, it may be difficult to decide which are the most important. Nutrition experts recommend reading labels in the following order:
1) Serving size:The following values are based on one serving. Therefore, if a package yields two servings, it has double the amount specified on the label.
2) Calories:It is important to remember that the detailed figure is the amount of calories the product has per serving. Overall, calorie ranges are as follows:
• 40 calories is low
• 100 calories is moderate
• 400 calories or more is high
3) Nutrients:There are two groups of nutrients: those that should be avoided and those that should be consumed. Among the ones that should be limited are total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Among the nutrients that should be consumed in adequate amounts are fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. Fiber can help lower the risk of heart disease and some cancers. In addition, calcium helps keep bones strong and prevents osteoporosis.
4) Notes on daily allowances:At the end of the label, the recommended daily allowances are specified, based on 2,000 and 2,500 calories per day. The final notes usually indicate whether it is the “upper limit,” “lower limit,” or “eat less than…” In the case of fats, the maximum amount is usually specified, while for fiber it is expressed as “at least,” in order to have a certain amount per day.
5) Daily percent:Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, it helps determine if the portion has many or few nutrients. If the label says it has 5% or less, it is low; whereas if it has 20% or more, its content of that nutrient is high, considering the percentage refers to a single food.
Beyond being tasty or not, every product has another side: its label. That’s where you’ll find all the truth. And knowing the truth is a useful tool in order to make sensible choices.
Source: “How to understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label” published at www.fda.gov
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