Saturday, February 23, 2019

How exactly do you read a nutritional label?

by Lartinos (writer), NYC, February 13, 2013

Here is the valuable information you need know broken down by each unit of measurement and nutrient.

Sample Nutritional Label

Serving Size: Near the very top of the label you will find the serving size. This is simply just the amount of product in one serving of the item you want to buy. The problem that people run into with this information comes down to whether or not the amount shown is actually a serving or not. Manufacturers will purposely put a smaller amount so that you are led to believe it has less carbohydrates and saturated fat than it really has. That is why it is especially important to check out how much a serving indeed is. From there you can judge exactly how many servings you will actually be eating and multiply the number if necessary. Purposely eating the small serving size given is also a great way to manage your portion control. This is an important number, so make sure you use it!

Calories: Overall I am not a big fan of counting just calories. It is an unreliable number, especially on nutritional labels as it usually only says the amount of calories from fat as opposed to carbs most often. Carbs are actually a more important piece of information. Feel free to count your calories, but do so knowing it should be a lower priority than knowing the total amount and type of carbs that you are consuming. There are scientific studies proving that calories from carbs have a bigger impact than those from fat, this is a fact most are ignorant to.

Carbohydrates: Total carbohydrates are the combined total of the complex and simple carbohydrates in a product. Below the total carbohydrate number you will see the sugar count. (Simple sugars) Simple sugars are more quickly broken down creating a faster insulin response which is why they are not considered diet food. Although fruit is an exception in the fact that it is does not create the same insulin response as other simple sugars, we must still be aware of the fact that the fructose in fruit has a negative effect on the hormone leptin causing us to binge on more food. Truly effective dieting must account for our total carbohydrate intake because of it's effects on our insulin levels. Insulin is the carrier hormone, meaning that it is necessary for us to store fat. If we reduce our carbohydrate intake we can therefore put ourselves in optimal position to lose weight. For this reason it is foolish to blindly only count calories as it is scientifically proven that calories from carbohydrates have more of an effect on weight gain as opposed to calories from fat and protein.

Total Fat: Total fat encompasses the total amount of saturated, trans, and essential fats in a given product. Many people mistakenly only read the total fat without doing the most important part which is to check the specific breakdown of each fat. There is a huge difference between each kind of fat and the impact it has on our bodies. By making sure we get the right types of fats it can help us determine what foods we like that are also good for our diet.

  • Saturated Fat:
  • It is common knowledge that saturated fat is bad for you. Or is it? I would say in general to stay away from saturated fats when you can and to instead try to consume essential fats. The one exception for saturated fats would be coconut oil. I use coconut oil all the time to cook , but be forewarned it is not cheap! It does not cost a fortune, but it can be 10 dollars for 10 ounces of it. I buy the larger ones to save money because coconut oil tastes great, is excellent for cooking, great for dieting, and has plenty of other benefits. Coconut oil contains fats called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). It has been shown that breaking down these types of healthy fats in the liver leads to efficient burning of energy. One study actually found that women who consumed 30 milliliters (about 2 tablespoons) of coconut oil a daily for 12 weeks not only did not gain more weight, but actually had lowered amounts of abdominal fat. Decreased abdominal fat results may be a result of possibly both the increased thyroid output and blood sugar benefits of this fabulous saturated fat. Coconut oil also helps with viral, bacterial, and fungal issues we have in our body. The next time you hear someone say all saturated fats are bad for you, you can now set them straight!

  • Trans Fat:
  • There are only few cases of which trans fats are not bad for you, but overall I say to stay away from at all costs. Not only can they shorten your life, they can also make you gain weight. You will know when a product has trans fat because it will say the word "Hydrogenated" on the nutritional label somewhere. The process of hydrogenation takes normally healthy unsaturated fats and turns them into exactly the opposite in that they are not what you want to be putting into your body. Items with hydrogenated fats include movie popcorn and peanut butter that is not "natural" in that there is processed ingredients that therefore have trans fat in them. Stay away!

  • Essential Fats:
  • Essential fats are very important to both dieting and overall health. They are so important that they were actually accidentally named vitamin F when they were first discovered.
    They are considered essential because unlike other types of fats, our body cannot synthesize them. That means that our body cannot make them on their own from other substances. The only way we can get them that means is through our diet. On your nutritional label you will see the essential fats represented by poly and mono-saturated fats, and the breakdown between the two. Both offer health benefits so go ahead and get products that contain these. I will talk more about essential fats later on. Seeing essential fats on a label is a good thing, while saturated fat is usually a bad thing, and trans fat being the worst.

    Dietary Fiber and Net Carbs: Most people don't know what these are, which is a shame because this information really does help you. Dietary fiber by definition is an insoluble form of carbohydrate; It is a carbohydrate that your body cannot digest. That means it is added as part of the total carbohydrates section, but the part that is made up of dietary fiber does not negatively effect our blood sugar levels.That is where net carbs come in, by simply subtracting the grams of dietary fiber from the total carbohydrates gives us the net carbs. The final net carb number is the actual amount of impactful carbohydrates in the given item you are looking at. That is why you want to find items that are higher in fiber as it will lessen the impact on your blood sugar levels and therefore make us put on less fat. Fiber also makes us feel full, increases protein synthesis (building muscle), and is proven to also help our heart health too. The labels often do the work for you and give you the net carb number without you having to do the math.

    Cholesterol: This is one of the more confusing pieces of nutritional information that unless directed by a doctor to read, I would actually ignore this piece of information. In my opinion cholesterol gets a bad name overall because of ignorance more than anything. Cholesterol is an important building block of different hormones in our body, don't be afraid to consume it.

    Sodium: Salt is a very important nutrient to track as companies very often sneak large amounts into their products. The American heart association says that we should be receiving no more than 2 grams a day (2,000mg's). Considering one can of soup can often contain close to 1 gram of sodium, you can see how you can quickly go over that two gram level quickly. The minimum amount I suggest is 500mg's as it does indeed have health benefits, around a gram a day (1,000mg's) is a good place to aim for if dieting . Find out what range works best for you. If you are getting facial bloat, it can very be a sign that your sodium intake is too high and that you need to lower it. It takes most people three days to lose bloat from sodium once your diet is adjusted, a nice tid bit of information in case you have some important pictures coming up or a hot date. Most Americans consume a whopping 4,000 mg's of sodium a day, so if you are not currently watching your sodium intake it could be very high.

    Protein: Protein is an important part of any diet. This goes without saying, but what you may not know is that all protein is not the same gram for gram. Most consumers get hung up on the fact that a product is better than another because it contains more grams of protein. In actuality all protein are not equal as some are more easily digested by for our bodies. So when you see an egg only has six grams of protein, if that number seems lower than it should it is because eggs are one of the most easily digested proteins available for us to eat, hence being highly bioavailable. Numbers can be deceiving!

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    About the Writer

    Lartinos is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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