Your Guide to Reading the Nutritional Labels Right - Fast&Up

Your Guide to Reading the Nutritional Labels Right

When it comes to reading the nutritional labels right, we all might think that we know what we’re reading but there are often misrepresented and misunderstood nutritional facts that go unnoticed by most of us.

In this blog, we’ll try to address most of those grey areas and throw light into few commonly misunderstood terminologies. Stated below is your guide to understanding nutritional labels the right way.

Calories – equivalent to the amount of energy you get

Start reading the label with serving calories. This will help you get the right quantity. You should know that the daily calorie intake for a healthy person is 1800 to 2200, depending on your gender and the amount of work you do. 

Nutrition Facts

Fats – Know the different types of fats

Understanding your fats is imperative as not all fats are bad for us.

Saturated fats: This is the fat that is often found in milk, butter, and meat. It has the potential to raise your cholesterol levels. Hence, it is advisable to be consumed in limited quantity. Ideally, one should consume only 10 percent of their daily calorie requirement of saturated fats.

Trans fats: This is the kind of fat that has been thickened with the process of hydrogenation. This is done to increase the shelf life of the food items. It is usually used in pies and crackers to make them crispy and flaky. This too raises your cholesterol levels and hence should be consumed in limited quantities.

Unsaturated fats: This is the kind of fats you should be consuming because it’s healthy. Most of the unsaturated fats are derived from plants and can lower or correct your cholesterol levels. They’re mostly of two types

  • Mono-saturated: Mostly you can find them in avocado nuts, olive, and peanut. It is considered good for reducing your bad cholesterol levels, or LDL
  • Poly-saturated: You will find these in vegetable oils such as sesame, sunflower oils, and seafood. This is good for reducing bad cholesterol too. Furthermore, poly-saturated fats are divided into two types – Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids. The former can be found in foods like walnuts and soybeans, fatty fish, flaxseeds, and salmon. Whereas the latter is found in foods including vegetable oils such as soybean and corn oil.

Often the nutritional label can even have the term ‘Total fats’ which would have a breakdown of all the facts mentioned. The food companies don't need to list mono-saturated and poly-saturated fat separately. 

Sugar – the less the better

One of the nutritional facts that you must be wary about is the amount of added sugar and how they are different from total sugars.

Total Sugar: This is the amount of sugar naturally present in foods and beverages you consume, such as milk and fruits, plus the amount of added sugar that is present in the food item.

Added Sugar: These are the kinds of sugar that are added during the processing of food items (such as sucrose or dextrose), sugars from syrups and honey, sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices, and also foods packaged as sweeteners.

Sometimes you will also find alternative names of sugar on the labels. Below is a list of names you should stay away from

  • Rice Syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Agave Nectar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Malt syrup
  • Maple Syrup
  • Cane crystals
  • Cane juice
  • Carob Syrup
  • Crystalline Fructose
  • Date Sugar
  • Fruit Juice
  • Grape Sugar

As per the American Heart Association, the daily limit for a man is not to consume over 37.5 grams or 9 tbsp of sugar each day. Similarly, for a woman, it should not be more than 25 grams or 7tbsp of sugar each day.

Other nutrients like fibers, vitamins, protein, and minerals

These are the nutrients you need to include more in your diet. Read the label as a guide to pick on the nutrients you might be lacking in your diet and make sure to compensate it further with whole foods rich in those nutrients.

Packaged food alone is not enough to meet your RDA as they contain fiber, minerals, and vitamins in limited quantities. Therefore, use the labels to support your personal dietary needs.

When looking for proteins, you should check the source of the protein and the amount you’re getting. As a general rule, a person should have protein as per gram of their body weight.

What you need to limit

Apart from sugar and fats, cholesterol and sodium are a strict no-no for everyone too. A healthy person should not consume more than 3000 mg a day. The American Heart Association, however, recommends 2,300 mg, which is close to 1 teaspoon, of sodium per day. 

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