Sunday, August 9, 2009

Eat Healthy-Nutritional Label Part 2-How to Read,Analyse and Understand

This article is a continuation of my first article "Eat Healthy-Nutritional Label-How to Read, Analyse and Understand Nutritional Labels".

You'll be exposed to more samples of nutrition labels in this article as a means of sharpening your skill of reading and understanding nutrition labels. It would be better if you could print out these labels (courtesy of Nutritiondata.com).

Firstly....we'll compare two nutrition labels; one describing Low Fat Chocolate Milk and another Whole Chocolate Milk. Best to print them out first!!

Nutrition Label-Low Fat Chocolate Milk

Nutrition Label-Whole Chocolate Milk

Now...let's start by looking at the Serving Size and Serving Size Per Container....
Both of the milk products have the same Serving Size (i.e 1 cup 250g) and Serving Per Container (i.e 2 cups). What does this tell us??

Basically, this means that the value of the nutrients displayed in the nutrition labels of the milks can be compared directly...without any multiplication or division. It's a direct comparison because the Serving Size and Serving per Container are same for both food products.

The next step is to look at the Calories and Calories from Fat values. Looking at the Whole milk nutrition label...the Calories from fat is 74, which is about 36% of the total Calories i.e 208. On the other hand, the Calories from fat of the Low Fat Chocolate Milk is only 14% of its total Calories of 157.

Therefore, if you consumed 1 cup of Whole Chocolate Milk compared to 1 cup of Low Fat Chocolate Milk...you'll be taking in 22% more Calories from Fat into your system. This is a literal consumption of fat, which may cause heart diseases, obesity, blood pressure and diabetics!!!

1 points for Low Fat Chocolate Milk!!

Next...we'll have to consider the type of nutrients and its value in both products.
  • Low Fat Chocolate Milk contains 2g of Saturated Fat and 1g of Trans Fat (as the Total Fat is 3g), while the Whole Milk contains 5g of Saturated Fat and 3g of Trans Fat (as the Total Fat is 8g). Based on this Low Fat Milk scores another 1 point!!
  • Cholesterol vice...Low Fat Chocolate Milk contains 8mg in every 1 cup compared to 30mg in every cup of Whole Chocolate Milk, which gives another point to Low Fat Milk!!
  • Sodium...there is 152mg of Sodium in every cup of Low Fat Chocolate Milk compared to 150mg of Sodium in a cup of Whole Chocolate Milk. Finally...1 point for Whole Milk!!
  • Both milk products contain the same amount of Carbohydrate in every cup i.e 26g.
  • Low Fat Chocolate Milk contains 1g of Dietary Fiber and 25g of Sugar in every cup in contrast with 2g of Dietary Fiber and 24g of Sugar in 1 cup of Whole Chocolate Milk. Based on this facts, the Whole Chocolate Milk scores 2 more points!!
  • The Protein amount in both products are similar i.e 8g.
  • Low Fat Chocolate Milk contains 10% of Vitamin A and 29% of Calcium compared to 5% of Vitamin A and 28% of Calcium in 1 cup of Whole Chocolate Milk.
So..which milk product will you purchase??

Based on the nutrition labels and its analysis above...the Low Fat Chocolate Milk would be a healthier choice as the Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Calories From Fat and Cholesterol content are much more lower than the Whole Chocolate Milk. The amount of Vitamin A and Calcium in 1 cup of the Low Fat Chocolate Milk are also higher than its counterpart.

Even if the Sodium, Dietary Fiber and Sugar content of the Low Fat Chocolate Milk is higher than the Whole Milk...the difference is insignificant...making the Low Fat Milk a better choice!!

Try analysing these two food products now...Chocolate Cake and Doughnut...and write a comment on the selection you'll make. Stay tune for the next article: Eat Healthy-Ingredients and its Impact on riteliving.blogspot.com!!

Nutrition Label-Chocolate Cake

Nutrition Label Doughnut

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Eat Healthy-Nutritional Label-How to Read,Analyse and Understand

HOW TO READ, ANALYSE AND UNDERSTAND NUTRITIONAL LABELS

The first step in ensuring that your family and you maintain a healthy way of eating is to be able to read, analyse and most importantly, to understand the nutritional labels on the food products you purchase.

Reading and analysing nutritional labels might be a hassle and an embrassment (for some) when you have to do it in a supermarket at the beginning but, once you're use to it...believe me it's not as bad as it sounds!!

Many of the images and core ideas of this article has been adapted from http://www.fda.gov.

Nutrition Label-Macaroni & Cheese

I will be referring to the above nutritional label (courtesy of US FDA) throughout this article, thus it might be easier if you could print out the word document prior reading my article.

1) SERVING SIZE AND SERVING PER PACKAGE
This is the top most section of a nutritional label, and is the first thing you'll have to look at to understand the label. It's important to know the difference between Serving Size and Serving Per Package.

Serving Size is a standard measurement. It is always presented in familiar units such as in cups, pieces, bottles and etc followed by the relevant metric values such as grams, miligrams, litres and etc.

On the other hand, Serving Per Package refers to the specific's food content in terms of the Serving Size...is it 2 times the Serving Size or 4 times the Serving Size? Well, let's look at the nutritional label above. This is a sample label of a Macaroni & Cheese Frozen Food package. Now...it says that the Serving Size is 1 cup (228g). And the Serving Per Package is 2 times the Serving Size. So...what does this mean? It tells us that the whole Macaroni & Cheese package is 2 times the Serving Size i.e the package if actually 2 cups or 456g (228g x 2) in weight.

The nutritional information and the amount of calories presented in Sections 2,3 and 4 of the nutrition label (refer to the above label) are based on the Serving Size of 1 cup or 228g of Macaroni & Cheese. Therefore, if you were to consume the entire pack of this Macaroni & Cheese....you'll be consuming twice the calories and nutrients displayed in the label.

Serving Size is essential when you compare different foods. For example...let's say there was another frozen food package Chicken Pie, and you're in the midst of deciding which would be a healthier choice for dinner...you'll have to use the Serving Size as your comparison basis. Compare the calories and nutrients of 1 cup of Macaroni & Cheese with the calories and nutrients in 1 cup of Chicken Pie!! If the Chichken Pie contains more nutrients and less calories per cup than the Macaroni & Cheese...then it's obvious that you should purchase the Chicken Pie.

2) CALORIES AND CALORIES FROM FAT
Section 2 of the nutritional label displays the Calories Information of ONE Serving Size of the food. This tells you how much of energy will you obtain from the consumption of one serving of the food.

Calories from fat tells the portion of calories which is contributed by fat. For example, from ONE cup (228g) of Macaroni & Cheese...you'll obtain 250 calories. And of that, 110 calories are contributed by fat. Can you imagine that? Almost half the calories are from fat...and that's only if you consume 1 cup of Macaroni & Cheese. If you ate the whole package i.e 2 cups of Macaroni & Cheese...you'll be putting 220 calories from fat into your system!!

3 & 4) AMOUNT OF NUTRIENTS
Section 3 and 4 of the nutritional label displays the nutrient information. Section 3(yellow coloured) shows the types of nutrient which should be consumed in moderate, while the nutrients listed in Section 4 displays the nutrients that should be consumed in abundance.

Generally, we take in the nutrients in Section 3 beyond what our body needs and consume very little nutrients in Section 4. This may cause heart diseases, malnutritions and etc.

We'll talk about the recommended intake of each nutrient and its effect on the body in another article. For now...let's just try to learn the nutritional label first...

According to the above label...1 cup (228g) of Macaroni & Cheese contains 12g of total fat, 3g of trans fat, 30mg of cholesterol and 470mg of sodium. If you ate the entire pack, you would have taken twice these amounts...i.e 24g of total fat, 6g of trans fat, 60mg of cholesterol and 940mg of sodium.

As you can see, the values of the nutrients displayed in Section 4 are not in metric values but are in percentage of the daily value. Therefore to analyse the metrical value of these nutrients, you will need to first familiarise yourself with the meaning and impact of daily values.

5) FOOTNOTE
The asterisk (*) beside the Daily Value in the nutritional label brings us to the footnote. Well, the footnote basically exist to inform you that the Daily Values (in percentages) beside the nutrients
displayed in Section 3 and 4, are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This statement (highlighted in yellow) appears in all food products and is the same for any kind of food. According to research, most of us are only required to consume 2,000 calories a day!!

However, you'll not find the amounts circled in red in all nutritional labels...they are commonly omitted from small nutritional labels. These are the Daily Values (DV) for each nutrient listed and are based on the public health experts' advice. Daily Values are the recommended levels of nutrients intakes on a daily basis. We'll discuss more on the recommended level of nutrients in the next article.

For example, it says that the DV of sodium for a 2,000 calorie diet is 2,400mg. This basically means that you are only recommended to consume 2,400mg of sodium in a day. And this is equivalent to one teaspoon of salt!! I'm sure that's a shock!!

The DVs of those who need more calories a day...such as construction workers, tractor drivers and etc..will however be higher.

6) DAILY VALUES AND %DAILY VALUE
How does daily values and %daily values relate to each other? Well...based on the above nutritional label, the recommended daily value of nutrients are equivalent to 100% daily value. Let's take the Daily Value of total fat for instance. It says that the DV of total fat is 65g, making 65g the 100% of total fat that you can consume a day.

Now...look at the DV (%) displayed beside each of the nutrients in Section 3 & 4...and search for the total fat nutrient. What do you see? One cup of Macaroni & Cheese contains 12g of total fat...which if described in a percentage...would be 18% (12g/65g x 100%). That's how you obtain the DV(%) of 18% for total fat.

Let's try another nutrient...cholesterol. The recommended DV for cholesterol is 300mg. Now look at how much of cholesterol will you consume if you ate one cup of Macaroni & Cheese...30mg...thus when this is described in percentage...it would be 10% (30mg/300mg x 100%). Voila!!

Now...how do you analyse the daily value and daily value(%) when deciding your purchase?

Simple...since you are informed that the recommended amount of total fat to be consumed in a day is limited to 65g...try not to exceed this amount!! If you consumed one cup of Macaroni & Cheese...you would have taken 18% of the daily total fat, leaving you with only 82% to consume. That's about 53g of fat which you would easily exceed through consuming other fried foods, rice, pasta and desserts!!

It's even worse when you eat the whole package of Macaroni & Cheese...you'll be consuming twice the total fat...i.e 36% of your daily total fat limit, which only leaves a room of 64%.

These information allows you to plan your meals in a healthier way. If you decide to enjoy something fatty for lunch, you can decide to eat low fat food during your dinner to stay within the total fat daily value. You don't need to let go off your favourite foods to be healthy!!

CONCLUSION

  • Look at the Serving Size and Serving Per Container. Serving Size will act as your comparison base. It is also the base on which all nutrients are displayed for.
  • Next would be the Calories Amount and Calories from Fat Amount. This tells the energy that you'll obtain when you consume the Serving SIze.
  • Then comes the amount of each nutrient. Remember that the amounts are for one Serving Size. If you consume more than one Serving Size, you have to multiply the amounts with the Serving Per Container.
  • Finally, the Daily Values and Daily Values. DVs are the recommended level of nutrient intake based on a 2,000 calorie diet. And DV (%) shows the amount in percentage form.
We'll exercise reading and understanding nutritional labels in the next article. Together with that I'll discuss about the importance of reading the ingredients of the food products.

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