Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nutrition 101

Nutrition facts on food labels give consumers more information on the nutrient content of a particular food product. This enables them to make better food choices and follow a healthier lifestyle.   Below is a concise guide on nutritional information:

Serving size. Considered as one of the most important nutritional information, as it provides consumers the number of servings in the package, the size of the serving, and the recommended amount of daily food intake. The serving size of the product can be written in Metric (e.g. gram, kilogram) and Imperial units (e.g. ounce, cup).

Calories. It indicates the amount of energy you get from a serving.  Always keep in mind that the number of servings you eat defines the number of calories you consume. For example, if you’re eating or drinking exactly 1 serving, then the calorie information provided on the food label is the amount of calories you have consumed. Taking 2 servings or more would mean acquiring twice or more of the original calorie amount and other nutrient numbers.
  
The Calories from Fat amount is displayed beside Calories. It also helps the consumers in managing their weight concerns.  There is no need to add "Calories from Fat" to "Calories" to get the total amount of 1 serving per food. "Calories" already includes the "Calories from Fat."

Total Fat. Dietary fat, together with protein and carbohydrate, is a nutrient and one of the major sources of energy for our body. Aside from making us feel full after a meal, dietary fat also supports our overall body function and helps us absorb some vitamins to nourish our body.  There are also different types of dietary fats that can be either good or bad to our health.

Good fats – Unsaturated fats: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated
-          Improves blood cholesterol level
-          Decreases risk of heart disease
-          Controls blood sugar
-          Lowers blood pressure level

Sources: Plant-based oils (sunflower, corn, safflower oils, etc.), peanut oil, olive oil, and more.

Bad fats - Saturated and Trans fats
-          Increases total blood cholesterol level
-          Decreases HDL (healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol)
-          Increases risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes

Sources: meat, poultry, fish, shortening, stick margarine, butter, and more.

Reminder: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a rule about trans fat which states that when a single serving of food contains less than 0.5 grams, the number of trans fat will be displayed as “0” on the food label. However, this rule does not cancel out the fact that your food still contains half a gram of trans fat in every serving consumed.
Tip: To avoid these unhealthy fats, scan the ingredients of the food. If you see words such as "hydrogenated", "partially hydrogenated", or "shortening," then the food you are taking contains some amount of trans fat.

Cholesterol. A substance we get naturally (produced by the liver) and from the food we eat. Cholesterol keeps us healthy by maintaining proper digestion, building cell walls, and other important body functions.

Sodium. Also known as salt, it controls blood pressure and blood volume. It also promotes proper body function.

Cholesterol and Sodium are considered “nutrients to get less of”. Our body needs both nutrients, but too much may lead to increased blood pressure and serious organ diseases (heart and kidney) for some people. According to FDA, choose the food with 5% Daily Values (DV) or less for lower sodium and cholesterol amount.

Total Carbohydrates. The term "Total Carbohydrates" includes two types of carbohydrates:

Dietary Fiber - One of the few nutrients which you need to get more of. It retains water to prevent constipation, keeps your system moving, lowers cholesterol, and gives other health-related benefits.

Sugar - Food containing carbs raise blood glucose. High sugar content in your food usually means the opposite of what high fiber content offers - quicker digestion and a harmful effect on your blood insulin levels, causing weight-related problems (e.g. obesity) and other health issues, such as type 2 diabetes.

Protein. It plays an important role in muscle, cell, organ, and gland functions.

Others. The last set of nutrients required to be listed on the food label are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron. Some food products may have additional vitamins and minerals as desired by the food product’s manufacturer.

With this brief breakdown of nutrition labels, you will now be able to read nutrition information more easily.  As an important requirement in marketing products, applying effective food labeling enables consumers to have a better understanding of nutritional content. Through CALCMENU, nutrition labels provide useful additional information like allergens, expiration dates, and other food restrictions. Visit http://www.eg-software.com to know more.



References:
US Food and Drug Administration:
http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm267499.htm

American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HeartSmartShopping/Reading-Food-Nutrition-Labels_UCM_300132_Article.jsp


Mayo Clinic:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fat/NU00262


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