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Nutrition 101: Deciphering the Nutrition Label

Nutrition 101: Deciphering the Nutrition Label
Slater Katz

It’s plastered on the back of almost every food product you decide to taste: a nutrition label. It seems straightforward and blunt, listing categories and percentages seeming as easy to comprehend as second grade spelling. But second grade spelling always seemed to trip you up with rules like “i” before “e” except after “c.” Understanding the basics of a nutrition label is no different than winning the school spelling bee.

Fortunately, we are here to conquer deceiving label inscriptions and reveal the key to its comprehension.

The first step in deciphering a nutrition label is to start from the top: looking at the serving size. For instance, a nutrition label may read 150 calories, but by taking a closer look, you can see that value is for 2 servings. The product you though was a low-calorie choice actually is double the amount! Next time you rapidly deem a product as low-calorie, we urge you to take a closer look.

The acceptable amount of fat in a food product is a common question. Let’s break it down: the average person should consume no more than 78 grams of fat a day, and if you are trying to lose weight, no more than 35 grams. Saturated and trans fat are the worst types of fat for your health. Limit yourself to no more than 16 grams of saturated fat and no more than 2 grams of trans fat a day, or just remove them from your diet entirely.

Sweet tooth sensations that melt in your mouth are stereotyped as sugar products. But sugar is not limited to the top of the food pyramid. Sugar hides in many ingredients, leading to overconsumption of the recommended 35 grams per day. It also has many aliases: dextrose, sucrose, corn sweetener, corn syrup, honey, and molasses. Investigate the gram value and the ingredients in your food to combat this health felon.

Rule of thumb: if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. Avoid high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated and refined oils, MSG and artificial sweeteners, and dyes. These ingredients are criminals on a quest to harm your body. Protect yourself.

Focus on the amount of fiber and percentage of vitamins and minerals on a nutrition label.  The average woman needs 25 grams of fiber per day and most fail in fulfilling the required amount. For a food to be “high fiber” it needs to contain 5 or more grams of fiber per serving, and a “good source of fiber” needs to contain between 2.5 and 4.9 grams of fiber per serving.

From the wee bottom to the far right, the percentage of vitamins and minerals lurks in many places.  It’s ideal to consume one hundred percent of each vitamin and mineral per day, but don’t become anxiously compulsive about fulfilling that value; just be wary of its importance and nutritional value.

Just as spell check has saved you from failing your English paper, you now have the tools to escape the health hindrances of the nutrition label. Snack safely!  

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