We all agree that going shopping might sometimes be confusing. In this context, decoding food labels is essential as you might find out valuable information regarding the product you want to purchase. How much is 'reduced sugar' or what does 'all-natural' mean? By taking a glimpse on the label you can also discover some harmful ingredients, preservatives and additives and therefore avoid certain health issues.
Always read labels! Why decoding food labels is crucial? As it
is important to know what you eat, especially if you have a
healthy diet. Besides, this might
help you avoid certain health problems or even aggravate an
What to look for when reading a label? First of all, make sure you understand what a serving is. Look at serving size, not package size! Take into consideration that if you eat 2 servings of a food, you will consume double the calories and double the % Daily Value (% DV) of the nutrients named on 'Nutrition Facts'. Then, you should find the total amount of calories, fats, sugars, salt, cholesterol and fiber and compare the result with your total daily recommendations.
Also, check for flavor enhancers, preservatives or artificial colors. Flavor enhancers are used in order to bring out the natural flavor in food, the most known being monosodium glutamate (MSG).
People often tend to believe that 'natural' is the healthiest choice. Still, keep in mind that not every product that has written on it '100% natural' is good for you. Usually, this type of products don't contain additives and preservatives. In reality, most of them are part of a marketing strategy. In this context, the best thing to do is to read all the ingredients and nutrition facts as you might find lots of calories and unhealthy fats.
What does this mean? Well, this signifies less than 0.5 gram of fat/sugar per serving, less than 5 calories per serving, and less than 5 mg sodium per serving. When it comes to these products, you shouldn't worry about the absence of what is written on the label. However, there are two main things to keep in mind. First, remember that you shouldn't totally remove fats from your diet and pick healthy versions. Second, calorie and fat-free products are usually rich in additives and preservatives.
Light products represent a quite tricky category. They might be the best choice if you want to cut off calories, yet they are not necessarily the healthiest option. Usually, when eliminating calories in soda, 70% from the juice used is replaced with water and artificial sweeteners which seem to be even more noxious than sugar. Light products have 33% less calories and 50% less fat than the regular versions.
Low-calorie means that the product contains 40 calories or less per serving, low-fat has 3 g or less per serving, while low-sodium has 140 mg or less per serving. You can also find 'very low sodium' which equals with 35 mg or less per serving. We don't know if these labels are the true reflection of what the product really contains, still recent researches have shown that low-calorie products might lead to different health problems and even weight gain.
No added sugars/No salt added
This means that no sugars or salt have been added during processing. However, manufacturers might have added some artificial sweeteners.
Label applied on diary products and beef in order to prove that these weren't raised with hormones. Nevertheless, this is one thing that cannot be determined and demonstrated. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the hormone issue. Hormones are used to increase cow milk output and in the case of beef to raise efficiently and faster. Some specialists say that hormones in food can have extremely negative effects on our health, especially on kids who are more vulnerable.
Organic foods contain at least 95% organic ingredients and are produced without using harmful methods, irradiation, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, or chemical food additives. It is said that organic products are safer and healthier than those conventionally grown, yet there is no scientific evidence in this sense.
Reduced or less sugar/sodium
'Reduced' means that the product has at least 25% less sugar or sodium as compared to the regular version. These foods might have less sugar, yet the calories, fats, fiber and other nutrients are almost identical to the full-sugar counterparts.
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