If you are wondering How To Understand Nutrition Labels, then you are not the only one. With so much data written onto a small piece of paper it is easy to get lost in what it means. This article will help clarify any areas you may have difficulty understanding.
On the label you will find the following information:
- Recommended serving size for one person, along with the average amount of servings per container based on one person.
- The calorie content (something most people look at first)
- Other ingredients such as fats, carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins. Pay attention to the fat section as this is the area that you will want to limit your intake (or avoid completely)
- Your daily value (DV) percentage (more on this later)
The Importance Of Nutrition Facts
So let us take a look at why it is important to understand the nutrition found inside the package. The body requires certain nutrients in order to function correctly. Many products found on the market today contain these nutrients, but not always the best type. For example the level of saturated fats you could find in the products.
Saturated fats are not healthy, and the amount consumed should be limited (if not avoided completely). The values will be present on the nutrition label. So knowing how to understand nutrition labels is important to making the right informed decision about which product you are going to buy.
The basis behind the nutrition labels, is to be a source of information regarding the product you are purchasing. Various government regulations stipulate that this information be present on each product packaging.
How Does Reading Nutrition Labels Help You
The main areas that nutrition labels can help you are listed below. Remember that this list is not exhaustive, but gives you an idea of the benefits behind making the right decision:
- Making a comparison between different types of products to determine the most nutritious option for you
- Having a clear understanding of the amounts of ingredients you are consuming such as; saturated fats, trans fats, calorie count, sugar, sodium, dietary fibres proteins.
- Allow you to limit or avoid certain ingredients
- Calculate what your daily value consumption would be
- Determine which product has the most essential nutrients that your body requires
How To Understand Nutrition Labels
Let us break down what is typically found on a nutrition label and what we can determine from it:
The serving information (typically found at the top of the label)
This determines the average serving amount for one person. Also present in this section is the total serving size of the package. This will be the contents of the package divided by the average serving amount for one person.
This is a recommended serving size based on the ingredients. One recommended serving amount will differ from person to person.
Calories per serving (typically found beneath the serving information)
This is as important part of the label. With all the attention nowadays paid to “calories and how they are bad for you”, there are in fact “good calories”. Calories from broccoli for example are better than calories from wine.
With that said, it is important to note the calorie content per serving. As this is a recommended serving amount and you were to consume more than this, you would in essence, be increasing your calorie consumption.
Now that we have determined how many calories are present in each serving, let us determine what constitutes these calories.
The good stuff vs the bad stuff (these can be found beneath the calorie amount)
In this section, you will find the amounts of fats (saturated vs trans), cholesterol amount and sodium levels. You really want to be reducing the amount of these fats you consume (if not completely avoiding them). The cholesterol levels are also important and should be as low as possible.
Dietary fibres, protein and calcium (normally found beneath the fats section)
These are the important nutrients to receive. If possible, find the products with more of these and less of the ingredients found above.
The daily value percentage (DV%)
What this basically means is the total percentage of nutrients found in a single serving. Of which should be the daily recommended amount. These percentages are a guide for you to determine at a glance what you will be consuming.
Should you want to consume a low amount of nutrients such as saturated fats, salt or trans fats, then you would be looking for a lower DV%. A typical amount would be 6% or less.
For those looking to consume nutrients with a higher amount of fibres and proteins, you would typically be looking for a DV% of 19% or more.
Conclusion On Reading Nutrition Labels
So to sum up this page on how to understand nutrition labels, it is important to know what you are looking at. Many foods nowadays are made for convenience, but this is not always the healthiest option. If you are serious about consuming the right ingredients in your food, then it is important to read the nutrition labels.
Know what it is that you are wanting to eat and find out if the product you are looking at holds the right nutritional values for you. Don’t just grab the product based on what the front looks like. Know what is inside.