We look at food labels for different reasons. Name, brand, age group, cost, country. But whatever the reason, many consumers would like to know how to use this information more effectively and easily.
Making the right healthy food choices is an essential part of our everyday life. However, discovering the best and most precise information is somehow confusing.
Food labels help greatly in choosing a healthy food product. Information found on the front, side, and even at the back of food packages can help in recognising the healthful benefits that it can offer. If one needs to eat less fat or sugar, more calcium or fibre – the Nutrition Facts on the food labels can surely help.
Here few suggestions to understand about food label
Serving sizes are standardised to make it easier to compare similar foods; they are provided in familiar units, such as cups or pieces, followed by the metric amount, e.g., the number of grams.
Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of this food. The calorie section of the label can help you manage your weight (i.e., gain, lose, or maintain.)
General Guide to Calories
The General Guide to Calories provides a general reference for calories when you look at a Nutrition Facts label. This guide is based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Limit these Nutrients. Eating too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or sodium may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease, some cancers, or high blood pressure
In the supermarket, your best ally is the Nutrition Facts Label on product packages, which lists how much sodium is in each serving.
As a guideline, to include a “sodium free or salt-free” claim on the label, a product cannot exceed 5 milligrammes of sodium per serving.
A product with a “low sodium” claim must not exceed 140 mg per serving.
A “no salt added or unsalted” claim on the label does not mean the food is “sodium free.”
Compare food labels and choose the product with the lowest amount of sodium.
Read the Nutrition Facts panel on foods you buy at the store and, when eating out, ask what kind of oil foods are cooked in. Replace the trans fats in your diet with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats
VITAMINS, MINERALS AND FIBRE.
These are the dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, Iron, Calcium.
Eating enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions. Eating a diet high in dietary fibre promotes healthy bowel function
In nutrition label; check for the percentage. High is 20 percent or more. Aim high in vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Understand the footnote on the bottom of the nutrition fact label. These are the Daily Values (DV) for each nutrient listed and are based on public health experts’ advice.
DVs are recommended levels of intakes. DVs in the footnote are based on a 2,000 or 2,500 calorie diet
Foods with more than one ingredient must have an ingredient list on the label.
Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Those in the largest amounts are listed first.
This information is particularly helpful to individuals with food sensitivities or allergy. Those who wish to avoid food allergens, limit added sugars or people who prefer vegetarian eating.
Carbohydrates source we can find out for a healthy reason. Whole grain cereals are always best than refined flour. Fructose or milk sugars are different than simple table sugar or corn syrups.
The protein we can check the ingredients like milk based, soya extracts, whey, chicken extract, beef extract.
Natural flavouring substances- derived from natural ingredients. From plant or animal raw material by physical, microbial or enzymatic processes.
Nature identical flavouring substances- these are obtained by synthesis through the chemical process. They cannot contain artificial substances.
Artificial flavouring substance- these are not identified in a natural product intended for human consumption. Although they are chemically different sensory characteristics they are same as natural.
Are substances added to food to preserve flavour or enhance its taste and appearances.
Examples are acidity regulator, anti-caking agents, antifoaming or foaming agents, emulsifiers, food colouring and much more.
Food additives, enhancers are written in code. Country to country their usage is different, limit values are different. Some additives are banned or unbanned.
Most of the research articles found to be the negative impact on human health on frequent consumption. They might cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity in children.
Some food components are mentioned under the topic of additives. Example egg can be mentioned under the heading enhancer or stabiliser instead name egg. So it becomes difficult to track original component to avoid allergy or in the case of the vegan diet.
Avoid more and frequent consumption of processed food on daily basis.
Choose the food product by spending some time to observe nutrition fact label. Instead just name of the product or cost.
Dr. Sushma Ghag, Dietitian
Aster Hospital, Mankhool