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Lose Weight by Reading the Nutrition Facts Label
The Nutrition Facts label that appears on all food packages is required by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The goal is to help you make informed food choices that contribute to a healthy diet. The FDA has established guidelines for general human health. However, we as individuals must decide for ourselves whether the food in the package meets our specific nutritional needs and any particular health conditions we may have, such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and so on.
Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are the main nutrients of good health. Everything is important for our body. The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of this nutrient varies depending on your age, gender, physical activity and body condition.
Two simple guidelines apply to most American diets:
- Limit Total Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. They increase the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, some cancers, and high blood pressure. Snack foods like chips and crackers are often high in fat, and they are the unhealthy types of fat – Saturated Fat and Trans Fat. These two are linked.
- Get enough Dietary Fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron to improve your health and reduce the risk of several diseases and conditions. Fiber promotes healthy bowel function. Calcium helps build healthy bones. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains provide fiber and vitamins.
One of the best uses for Nutrition Facts labels is for product comparisons. You can use these labels to decide which products are healthier for you. You can also use the nutritional information to make dietary changes during the day. If the food you eat is high in fat or sugar, choose low-fat and sugar-free foods during the day.
Get food packages and look for these items on the Nutrition Facts label.
Serving size tells you how much food is in it equals one serving. All other information on the label is based on one serving.
Dishes per Container tells you how many servings are in one package. Most packages have more than one serving. Be careful with how many servings you eat, because you have to multiply the other nutrients by that amount.
Calories is the total number of calories (energy from fat, carbohydrates, and protein) in one serving of food. This information is important if you are counting calories for weight loss or maintenance.
Fat from calories tells you how many of Calories in one serving comes from fat. 100 is medium and 400 or higher.
% Daily Value (DV) is percentage of the recommended daily value (according to the FDA) provided by one serving. It is based on a 2000 calorie a day diet. If this value is greater than 20%, the food is a good source of nutrients; 5% DV or less is low.
Total fat including four types of fat: Unsaturated fat, Trans fats, Unsaturated Fatand Unsaturated Fat. Unhealthy fats are Saturated Fat (should be less than 20g DV) and Trans Fat (should be 0%). Both of these fats raise LDL cholesterol and increase the risk of coronary heart disease. The RDI for Total Fat is 65 grams (g). If you follow a low-fat diet, fat-free products often contain added sugar for flavor.
Cholesterol is a substance found in animal products. Consuming too much cholesterol is not healthy for your heart. The maximum RDI for cholesterol is 300 milligrams (mg).
sodium tells you the amount of salt in a serving. Low sodium diets for high blood pressure and weight loss diets often limit sodium intake. The RDI for sodium is 2400 mg.
Amount of carbohydrates including fiber and sugar. Fiber helps digestion and makes us full between meals. Most of us don’t get enough fiber every day. The RDI for fiber is 25 grams. Sugar gives instant energy. Depending on the food, sugar may be natural or added. Too much sugar can be unhealthy and cause weight gain. A healthy diet suggests keeping sugar under 30 grams/day. If you follow a low-carb diet, sugar-free products usually contain added fat for flavor.
Protein helps build muscle and fight infection. The amount of protein needed by the body varies. For example, babies and children need less protein, pregnant and lactating mothers need more. For adults, the RDI is 50 grams. The RDI set by the FDA is based on a diet of 2,000 calories/day. Protein is found in animal and vegetable products.
Vitamins tells you the amount of vitamins in one serving of food. Some packaged foods contain added vitamins; some don’t give vitamins. Vitamins are best found in raw foods rather than packaged foods.
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