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Nutrition Facts: Glossary and Definitions

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Partially hydrogenated.See hydrogenated.

Polyunsaturated fat. A fat found in foods such as walnuts, salmon, and, soybean oil. Polyunsaturated fats provide essential fatty acids such as omega-3s and omega-6s to your diet. Most of the fat you eat should be mono- and polyunsaturated.

Potassium. Essential for life, potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure and keeps your heart and kidneys working normally. Potassium is found in bananas, nuts, potatoes, dairy, and other foods. Adults should aim for 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily.

Saturated fat. Usually solid at room temperature, saturated fats are found in animal products such as meat and milk, as well as in coconut and palm oil. Saturated fat is often used in foods to prevent rancidity and off flavors. No more than 5% to 10% of your total daily calories should come from saturated fat.

Serving size. This section of a nutrition label helps you determine the number of calories and amount of each nutrient in a recommended serving of a food. USDA serving sizes are often smaller than you might eat. So read labels carefully. Even small packages often contain more than one serving.

Sodium. While sodium (commonly called salt) is vital for healthy nerves and muscles, most of us get too much salt in our diet, often from processed foods. Read food labels to help keep your sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams a day or less.  Persons 51 and older, African Americans, or people who have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should limit sodium to 1500 milligrams daily.

Sugars. This section of the nutrition label refers to added sugars such as sucrose, glucose, fructose, and corn and maple syrups. It also includes natural sugars such as lactose in milk and fructose in fruit. If you are concerned about your intake of sugar, be sure added sugars are not one of the first few items in a food’s ingredients list.

Total calories. This number on a food label indicates how many calories are in a single serving of a food.

Total carbohydrate. This number on a food label indicates how many grams of carbohydrates are in a single serving of a food.

Total fat. This number on a food label indicates how much fat is in a single serving of a food. Limit total fat to less than 25% to 35% percent of the calories you consume each day. All fats have 9 calories per gram.

Trans fat. Trans fats are created when liquid fats such as vegetable oil are hydrogenated into more solid fats, such as margarine and shortening. Trans fats are linked with high LDL cholesterol, which can increase your risk of heart disease. Keep intake of trans fats as low as possible.

Whole grain. Whole grain foods include the bran, nutrient-rich germ, and endosperm of grains such as wheat, oats, or rice. Examples include brown rice, corn, and whole wheat bread. Whole grain foods have more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than processed white grains. Eating more whole grains can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on February 11, 2014

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