Food

Read Your Nutritional Facts!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

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Food security does not only speak to ensuring that food is safe and free of contaminants. It also speaks to ensuring food is readily available and nutritious. But how can we be sure we are feeding our bodies correctly? While fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with vital vitamins and minerals, we live in an era in which processed foods are a necessity and a convenience for many. We will therefore continue to learn how to interpret the information on food packages as we take a look at the nutritional value label and what the information listed means for consumers. Nutrients are ingredients in food that provide nourishment and are essential for bodily functions. Proper nutrition can help us to avoid or manage diseases such as hypertension, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease, among others.

Many times we ignore the nutritional value label because the main label states that the product is “healthy”. However, that product is not necessarily healthy for us based on age, health status or level of physical activity. While it is understandable that the label may be a bit overwhelming, understanding what the nutritional facts mean may help us to make better food choices for our health. So in the event we are battling one of the above diseases or wish to reduce the likelihood of contracting one, we need to pay attention to this panel on food packages. Just last year, the Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ) requested that Jamaicans pay closer attention to the nutritional facts on food labels; it has also created an info graphic chart with guidelines on how to read it.

Here are some main areas to pay closer attention to:

 

Serving Size

Did you know that the nutritional information on the label may not be for the entire contents of the package, but simply for one serving? Many packages often contain more than one serving. It is therefore very important to take note of what that is before beginning to consume the food. Serving sizes are usually represented in measurements such as cups, spoons, or pieces.

 

Calories

This is the energy provided by food/nutrients and is always listed for one serving, so be careful not to drink that bottle of soda in one go if you need to monitor your sugar intake. “Calories from fat” also show how many fat calories there are in one serving. It is important to note that products that are listed as fat-free aren't necessarily calorie-free. So ensure you read labels carefully.

 

Per cent (%) Daily Value

Daily nutritional value tells the amount of certain nutrients that most people need each day. This section on the label tells how the nutrients in one serving of the food contribute to total daily diet. Use it to choose foods that are high in the nutrients you should get more of, and low in the nutrients you should get less of. Daily values are usually based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Nutritional needs however will depend on age, health status, level of physical activities, etc. With the help of your doctor or nutritionist you can determine what your daily value is.

 

The FDA recommends that, in reading the nutritional value panel, you choose products that will limit your intake of nutrients such as total fat (especially saturated fat and trans fat), cholesterol, or sodium as these may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, some cancers, or high blood pressure. They suggest foods high in nutrients such as dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and potassium.


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