How do use nutrition intelligence to understand food labels?

Caviarlieri | Published September 23, 2022


With rapid urbanization and pandemic scenarios, curious attention regarding
food, diet and lifestyle habits is increasing immensely. We are paying serious
consciousness to the role of a balanced diet in our life. Inquisitively we have
started acquiring awareness of nutrition in food.


There is an increasing concern for diet-related health benefits and essential
nutritional ingredient requirements. These are motivating us to purchase a
particular product. Currently, health enthusiasts wish to understand the
importance of the nutritional content of their food and want to know what they
are consuming every day.


Online as well as offline grocery stores are flooded with lucrative health-claiming
products. It is of high priority that while going grocery shopping, one should take
time to read the nutrition facts and labels on the foods they purchase. One
should compare the nutrients and calories in food. Right nutritional labelling
knowledge will help add nutrition intellect to normal routine shopping practice.
Reading nutrition labels can lead to a real change in dietary patterns.


What is nutrition labelling?
It refers to a list of nutrients that are put on the food label packaging. It is meant
to provide users with information about the product’s contents. It contains the
name of the products, contents, date marking, nutritional information and many
more.


Why do Nutrition Labels Matter?
Studies show reading nutrition labels was associated with a higher intake of
fibre, calcium, and vitamin C, and a lower intake of calories and carbohydrates.
Understanding nutrition labels and using them to make appropriate food
choices is crucial to improving diet and metabolic health.


While reading and understanding nutrition labels, one will know more about the
following:
• How much of a given type of food is considered a serving
• How many calories are in each serving of food• Which ingredients are used to make a given serving of food
• How much fat is in a serving, including saturated and trans fats
• How much sodium is in a serving
• How many grams of carbohydrates are in each serving, including grams of
sugar and fibre
• How many grams of protein is in each serving
• How well a given food item meets other important nutritional needs


Important points to look at in nutrition labels
The information in the main or top section of the nutrition label can vary with
each food product. It contains product-specific information like serving size,
calories, and nutrient information.


The bottom part contains a footnote with Daily Values (DVs) for 2,000 and 2,500-
calorie diets. This footnote provides recommended dietary information for
important nutrients, including fats, sodium and fibre. The footnote is found only
on larger packages and does not change from product to product.


Serving Size & Servings Per Container-
• The official term used on food labels is to talk about how much one eats
• Nutrition facts given on the food label are based on one serving
• Be sure to look at the number of servings in the container
• Even small containers may have more than one serving
• If eaten the whole container, then one must multiply the nutrition values
by the number of servings in the container


Calories
• Tell how much energy is in the food
• The calories listed are for one serving of the food

Total Fat
• It is the amount of fat found in one serving of food
• Total fat includes the amount of “bad fats” (saturated and trans) and
“good fats” (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated)
• Fat is higher in calories than protein or carbohydrates
• Cutting back on fat intake will help reduce the number of calories eaten


Saturated Fat
• Considered as a “bad” fat
• Eating too much can raise cholesterol levels (and LDL or bad cholesterol)
and the risk of heart disease and stroke
• Limit saturated fat intake to less than 5 to 6% of total calories
• For a person who needs 2,000 calories a day, this is 120 calories or less,
or about 13 grams of saturated fat


Trans Fat
• Also considered a “bad fat”
• it raises LDL cholesterol and the risk of heart disease
• Choose foods with “0” grams of trans fat
• Read the ingredient list to avoid foods that contain “partially
hydrogenated” oils.
• Everyone can benefit from limiting trans fat


Cholesterol
• It is found in foods that come from animals, such as meats, poultry,
seafood, eggs and full-fat dairy products
• It is recommended to eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible within a
healthy diet patternSodium
• It is present in food products as both naturally occurring and added


Sodium
• Table salt is sodium chloride
• Most people should take in less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day
• That’s equal to a little more than ½ teaspoon of salt


Total Carbohydrates
• These are digested and converted into glucose, or sugar, to provide the
body’s cells with energy
• Choose carbohydrate-based foods with high amounts of nutrients
• These include vegetables, fruits and whole-grains and cereals


Dietary Fibre
• These make up the parts of plants and the body can’t digest
• As part of a healthy diet, soluble fibre can help decrease the risk of heart
disease and some types of cancer
• Whole grains and fruits and vegetables include dietary fibre
• Most refined (processed) grains contain little fibre


Total Sugars
• These include both sugars that occur naturally in foods, such as fruit and
milk and sugars that are added to foods and beverages, such as those in
desserts, candies and soft drinks


Added Sugars
• It is a newer category on the label
• The FDA’s Dietary Guidelines recommend that less than 10% of total daily
calories come from added sugar• There are lots of different names for “added sugars,” such as sucrose,
fructose, glucose, maltose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup,
concentrated fruit juice and honey
• Look at the ingredient list and buy foods and beverages that don’t have a
lot of added sugars


Protein
• It is one of the components in food that helps build muscles
• Animal protein contains saturated fat
• Choose fish and skinless poultry
• Limit intake of red and processed meats
• Use low-fat or fat-free dairy products
• Try other sources of protein, such as beans, nuts, seeds, tofu and other
soy-based products


Vitamins and Minerals
• These are important parts of the diet
• Eating a variety of foods will help reach the daily goal of 100% of essential
vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium


% Daily Value
• These tell about what percentage of each nutrient is in a single serving
based on the recommended daily amount
• To consume less of a nutrient, choose foods with 5% DV or less
• To consume more, choose foods with 20% DV or more


Conclusion
Nutritional labelling is very crucial in influencing consumers to purchase a
product. Nutrition labelling is paramount because it helps make healthier food
choices to avoid diet-related diseases and maintain ideal body weight. Alsoencourages to have better dietary intake and reduces the consumption of unhealthy food. Focusing on nutritional labelling while purchasing the product, definitely assists to lead a better lifestyle.


The more one practice and read nutrition labels, the easier it will become to
quickly skim through and find the information they need. The right way is to
keep reading, keep interpreting, and keep making smart decisions to make the
most out of every bite.


References
1. American heart associations
2. www.move.va.gov
3. J. Appl. Environ. Biol. Sci., 5(6S)62-68, 2015