Why you should make it a practice to read food labels before you get to the checkout.
Do you read the Nutrition Facts Label on your bread or guacamole at the grocery store? You probably glance at the calorie content, but do you look at the other nutritional elements or the serving size before deciding to buy?
Here are seven key details you should look out for on food nutrition labels to help you manage cardiac risk factors you might have.
You presumably know that calories are listed in bold type near the top of food labels, where it’s visible at a quick glance. However, if you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, this number alone isn’t sufficient.
Checking the amount of calories per serving is very important. Because purchasers are more inclined to buy foods with lower calorie content, the calories might be listed for disproportionate portion size — like 5 pieces of chips. You can’t assume it’s for the entire package, if you don’t keep an eye on the portion size, it’s easy to eat far more calories than you expected.
The amount of total fats in a food product is listed in grams, with types of fats listed separately below it.
To the right, you’ll see the number of grams for total fats and saturated fats as a percentage of the daily recommended amount, called percentage of daily value (%DV), on a 2,000 calorie/day diet.
If you have hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), the amount of saturated fat is essential. To lower your cholesterol, less than 5% of your total daily calorie intake should come from saturated fat.
The recommended amount of cholesterol is 300 milligrams (mg) a day, but this is too much. Strive to consume less.
Sodium results in water retention, a low-sodium diet is a necessity for people with heart failure or hypertension (high blood pressure). Food may be labeled “low sodium” if it contains less than 140 mg.
Your doctor will set the daily limit for sodium if you have heart failure. If you have hypertension or at risk for it, you should restrict sodium intake to no more than 1,500 mg a day. Risk factors include diabetes or kidney disease, are African-American, or are age 50 or older.
Most others can limit their sodium consumption to 2,300 mg per day.
Carbohydrates (carbs) are foods that turn into sugar.
“Bad” carbs raise blood sugar rapidly and contribute to the formation of triglycerides, a type of fat found in your blood. Bad carbs are listed on most labels as “added sugars.” This category includes table sugar, honey, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, and any other form of added sugar found in the food.
The %DV for added sugar is 36 grams per day for men (about 9 teaspoons) and 25 grams per day for women (6 teaspoons).
Those who have prediabetes, diabetes, or high triglyceride levels should steer clear of bad carbs.
High in dietary fiber foods are considered “good” carbs. These types of food turn into sugar more slowly, which helps keeps blood sugar levels stable and prevents spikes.
Nearly everyone should be eating more fiber. It’s particularly important when trying to lower cholesterol. Strive for at least 25 grams of fiber per day. Men need up to 35 grams.
The %DV of protein is 50 grams, although most Americans typically consume more than that. Protein is regularly listed on the label, even when it’s not present in the food.
Knowing the amount of protein is important for those with chronic kidney disease who have to limit protein their intake.
Vitamins + minerals
Today, only vitamins and minerals regarded as essential for a balanced diet are listed on food labels. Such as vitamin D, Calcium, iron and Potassium. Vitamin D is necessary for bone health, while Potassium is important for controlling blood pressure.
Look at the %DV, to ensure you understand how much that serving will contribute to the total amount you need in a day. These figures are based on new scientific evidence for the number of nutrients you should consume.
Look at the ingredients too!
Aside from the actual nutrition facts label, Patton says it’s vital to read the actual ingredient list. Choose foods with the fewest ingredients listed as possible. In grain products, the first ingredient should always read “whole.” As a minimum, whole grains have 2.5 grams of fiber per serving. Try avoid bleached or enriched grains. Lastly, sugar should not be listed among the first five ingredients.