How to read nutrition labels: we teach you
When you choose a food or dietary supplement in the supermarket, do you know how to read the nutritional labels? Or perhaps you wonder what that table with so many numbers means and how it helps you.
Labels are the most important and direct means of communication between manufacturers and consumers. And understanding its content will allow you to make better decisions related to your health, your lifestyle and your weight.
This tool offers you details about what you are buying to consume: its origin, conservation method, how to handle it and prepare it safely. Also, it shows the ingredients that make it up and the nutrients they provide.
Ready to learn to read them?
What are nutrition labels and what do they indicate?
According to the regulation of the Codex Alimentraius Commission (the highest international organization in terms of food standards) nutritional labels are all the descriptions intended to inform the consumer about the nutritional properties of a food , and include the declaration of nutrients and the supplemental nutritional information.
In simple words, they tell you what each product does for your body and make it easy for you to compare several similar products , based on:
It indicates it in grams and percentages per serving and every 100 grams of the product.
How to read nutrition labels
Each country has its nutritional labeling format, responding to the guidelines
International dictated by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) .
To teach you how to read nutrition labels, I will use the format approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) , which conforms to Codex standards and is mandatory.
I will give you the nutritional label of Fit & Slim, the protein for weight loss from Evolution Advance Nutrition, as an example:
First, look at the serving size and number of servings per package at the top of the label.
To make it easier to understand, they are displayed based on a common household measurement, such as a cup, tablespoon, capsule, or tablet.
In the case of Fit & Slim -as many manufacturers do-, we include a spoon (scoop) with the exact measure of product that must be consumed to guarantee that the portion size is indicated. This includes the metric amount in grams (g).
The nutrition information listed on the label is usually for only one (1) serving of the product. However, some may have nutritional information per package.
You must be very clear that:
Some containers may also have a label with two columns: one column showing the amount of calories and nutrients in one serving, and the other showing this information for the entire container. This last column lets you know how many calories and nutrients you're getting if you eat the whole package at once.
They are defined as the total number of calories or "energy" you get from all macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, protein, and alcohol) in a serving of food, supplement, or beverage.
The Fit & Slim label indicates the calories you will acquire each time you take a scoop, that is, 100 calories.
This data serves as a guide for nutritional advice. However, your needs may be higher or lower depending on your age, gender, height, weight, and level of physical activity. A doctor or nutritionist can advise you on that.
Remember that consuming too many calories per day can cause overweight and obesity.
Percent Daily Value (%DV)
It shows how much a nutrient contributes to your daily diet, each time you consume a serving of food or supplements. That can tell you if it's high or low in nutrients.
Daily values are reference amounts that indicate in grams, milligrams, or micrograms how much of a nutrient should be consumed daily, without exceeding it.
When a value is not established, it is allowed to place symbols such as ( * ) or ( † ), and it must be reported at the bottom of the table.
This information will allow you to compare different products to choose the one that is best for you, according to the nutrients you want to obtain and eliminate. Just make sure the serving sizes in each container are the same.
These values are determined by the National Institutes of Health (INH) in the US as a reference for dietary intakes.
Table footnote (bottom)
The information at the bottom of the label explains how much a nutrient in one serving contributes to a daily diet , which for the United States is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet as nutrition recommendations for the general population.
In the case of Fit & Slim, they are based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.
The origin of nutrition labels
In simple terms, general and nutritional labeling are the business card of any product that help you define your purchases and subsequent consumption.
They were born from the need to offer information about food in a truthful and efficient way. Their importance is such that the FAO promotes them as an effective tool to protect the health of consumers worldwide.
As if that were not enough, both the FAO and the WHO promote actions for governments to educate their population regarding a healthy lifestyle, specifically, setting as objectives of nutritional labeling, not only to help you as a consumer to better select your food, but to encourage the industry to improve the nutritional quality of food products.
And since 1985, the Codex promotes standards on nutrition labeling and labeling, which it reviews and updates to keep up with the advances of the 21st century.
The idea is to provide relevant information to consumers and avoid intentional deception with false information on packaging or claims of magical effects that confuse people.
Before you buy something, read the nutritional labels.
Do not buy lightly or be fooled by misleading advertising.
Remember that healthy nutrition is important throughout your life and will be a learning heritage for your family.
Not just because it will help you feel in top physical condition and stay strong. It will also reduce the risks of suffering from diseases such as cancers, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, osteoporosis, among others.
And if you already have certain health problems, good nutrition can help you control the symptoms.