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Nutrition label decoded – Know Your Food Better

Every pre-packed food product has a nutrition label on the back or side of its packaging. How often have you checked and compared brands based on their nutrition value before buying a food product?

Though most of us understand the importance of food labels, we often overlook them as they can be overwhelming and confusing at times. However, a few quick tips can make shopping for healthier foods a lot more easier and make you cautious of the amount of added sugars, fat and salt you consume.

Watch out for serving size

One should always know that the nutrient amount on the label that includes the number of calories refers to the size of the serving given on the package. Knowing the serving size information makes it easier to compare 2 similar food products.

Keep in mind that the serving size is not a recommendation of how much you should eat or drink. One packet can contain 2-3 servings as well. Few products may have a label with 2 columns – one shows the calories and nutrients in one serving while the other column shows about the entire package.

Pay attention to the calories

The amount of energy people get from food is measured in calories. You need to keep a watch on the calories per serving and the calories in the entire package if you’re planning to consume it whole. Double the serving you consume, double is the calorie intake. To maintain an ideal weight, it is necessary to balance the calories consumed. Calorie intake of every individual can be lower or higher depending on the age, weight, physical activity level, etc.

Evaluate and compare nutrients

The next section in the label breaks down the product in terms of their nutritional value. It includes information on the key nutrients that impact your health and can be used to complement your personal dietary needs and goals.

Include foods that have ample amounts of beneficial nutrients like fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin A, C, D, E, etc. If possible, when choosing from different brands, compare labels and select the one with less added sugars, sodium and saturated fat.

Good fat, Bad fat

When choosing fats, make sure you choose unsaturated fat and limit saturated fat. It’s wise to choose a healthier type of dietary fat to promote good health. Unhealthy or bad fats are trans fat found in fried foods, pastries, cookies, etc. and saturated fat found in red meat, cheese, butter, etc. Healthy fats are unsaturated fat, i.e. monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, avocados, nuts like almonds, cashews, peanuts, etc. and polyunsaturated fat found in flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, fatty fish, etc.

Mind the Daily Value Percentage

%DV indicates the percentage of daily value of each nutrient in a single serving. It helps to determine if a serving is high or low in a particular nutrient.

5% DV or less of any nutrient in a serving is considered low while 20% DV and more of any nutrient is considered high. Choose foods that are higher in %DV for dietary fiber, vitamin D, iron, calcium, and potassium and are lower in %DV for saturated fats, sodium and added sugar.

Key Take-aways

Always base your judgement on the nutritional composition of the foods you purchase and not their marketing claims. Many brands these days use claims to be ‘light’, ‘low’ or ‘reduced’ on certain nutrients. But, understanding the food label will always help you pick up the right pack.

Disclaimer: Indian Health Bureau does not claim any responsibility for the information contained in this article. The information may not hold good for everyone. The post is for general awareness only and should not be construed as a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Please consult your doctor to know what is good for you.



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