When we grocery shop nowadays, many of us read information on food labels to help us better discern whether the food we buy is healthy or not. In fact, food manufacturers are required by law to put certain information about their products on the nutrition labels. To learn about how to read these labels helps us make more informed choices about the foods we buy.
Here are a few guidelines:
Manufacturers are required to list all ingredients used to create the product. The ingredients are actually listed with the one used in the biggest proportion coming first. Knowing what certain terms mean also help a lot in choosing your food. For example, fats can be listed as fat, lard, shortening, oils (palm, coconut, hydrogenated vegetable), monoglycerides, diglycerides, or tallow. Sugars can be listed as sugar, honey, molasses, terms that end in “ose” (dextrose, sucrose, fructose, maltose, lactose), dextrin, maltodextrin, or syrups. Salts could be salt, MSG, sodium, baking soda, baking powder, brine, kelp or soy sauce.
In the nutrition facts table, there are specific sections that we have to be aware of. In the ‘Servings’ section, information about nutritional content based on a specific amount of food is given. Serving sizes can differ from product to product. Compare it to your normal volume of eating. “% Daily Values” are based on recommendations of how much of a nutrient you should take per day. Consume more of the nutrients that you are trying to increase. Keep in mind that in Canada, there is no “% Daily Value” for sugar since Health Canada’s Nutrition Recommendations do not recommend a specific amount of sugar.
Look out for health claims that the product might claim. According to Health Canada, a diet low in saturated fat and trans fat reduces risk of heart disease; adequate calcium, vitamin D and regular physical activity reduces risk of osteoporosis; eating a lot of vegetables and fruit reduces the risk of some cancers; a diet low in sodium and high in potassium reduces risk of high blood pressure.
There are certain food ingredients that somehow make it into the supermarket aisles, but would be very wise to avoid for health reasons. BHA found in Fruity Pebbles is a preservative that has been shown to cause cancer in rats and is “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen” according to the Japanese Journal of Cancer Research. Parabens found in Baskin-Robbins sundaes are present in breast cancer tissues. Sodium Nitrite in Oscar Mayer hot dogs and Hormel bacon could form compounds in our bodies that cause cancer. The high levels of caramel colouring found in Coke/Diet Coke and Pepsi/Diet Pepsi account for 15,000 cancers in the U.S. annually. Artificial dyes in Skittles and Jell-O are linked to hyperactivity in children and to cause tumors.
Remember to read the labels before you purchase any type of food product. Good health is the result of making good choices! Please SHARE this article with your friends or give us some COMMENTS below!