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5 Secrets of Reading Food Labels Revealed

Whether you're concerned about cancer, cardiovascular disease,diabetes, or simply losing weight, you want to eat a healthy dietand focus on foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, andphytonutrients, and balanced in fats, carbs, proteins.

There is only one way to incorporate healthy foods into our dietand that is to make the decision to do it! Practical informationabout the nutrition and safety of the foods we consume isabsolutely vital in making this decision.

One way to learn more about what we eat, is to snoop around thesupermarket. Check-out package labels to see what manufacturesare adding (or removing) from the foods we eat. Read theinformation on the package and start making comparisons todetermine which foods are the best for YOU. Know aboutnutritional labeling and the sometimes sneaky ways thatmanufacturers have of hiding what is in the food. Know andunderstand ingredient declarations, how they are used, and whata few of the "technical" terms mean. Are the unfamiliaringredients good or bad for your health?

Since 1994 food manufacturers have been required by the Food andDrug Administration (FDA) to include food labels (or NutritionFacts labels) on product packaging so that consumers haveaccurate nutritional information about the food they purchase.But food labels are more than just a federal requirement - onceyou understand the information they provide, you can use foodlabels as a guide to planning healthier meals and snacks.

Food labels are required on almost all foods, except those thatdon't provide many nutrients such as coffee, alcohol and spices.Although some restaurants provide information about the food theyserve, they aren't required to have labels. The FDA recommendsthat sellers provide nutritional information on produce, meat,poultry and seafood, but it's strictly voluntary.

What Is a Serving?

At the top of a food label under Nutrition Facts, you'll see theserving size and the number of servings in the package. The restof the nutrition information in the label is based on oneserving.

Calories, Calories From Fat and Percent Daily Values

This part of a food label provides the calories per serving andthe calories that come from fat. If you need to know the totalnumber of calories you eat every day or the number of caloriesthat come from fat, this section provides that information.Remember that this part of the label doesn't tell you whether youare eating saturated or unsaturated fat.

On the right side of a food label, you'll see a column that listspercentages. These percentages refer to the percent daily values(%DV). Percent daily values tell you how much of something,whether it's fat, sugar or vitamin A, one serving will give youcompared to how much you need for the entire day. It will helpyou gauge the percentage of a nutrient requirement met by oneserving of the product. One way to use this section of the labelis when you comparison shop. For example, if you're concernedwith sodium, you can look at two foods and choose the food withthe lower % DV. Are you trying to eat a low-fat diet? Look forfoods that have a lower percent daily value of fat.

The %DV is based on how much or how little of the key nutrientsyou should eat whether you eat 2,000 or 2,500 calories a day. Soif you eat a 2,000-calorie diet, you should eat less than 65grams of fat in all the foods you eat for the day. If you'reeating 12 grams of fat in your one serving of macaroni and cheese(remember that's one cup), you can calculate how much fat youhave left for the day. You can use the bottom part of the foodlabel in white to compare what you are eating to the % DV you'reallowed for that nutrient, whether it's fat, sodium or fiber. Ifyou need more or less than 2,000 or 2,500 calories, you'll needto adjust this accordingly.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to medically diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Consult a health care practitioner before beginning any health care program.

Emily Clark is editor at Lifestyle Health News and Medical Health News where you can find the most up-to-date advice and information on many medical, health and lifestyle topics.


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