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Reading Food Labels: What's the Deal?

The deal with food labels continued...


Get enough of these nutrients: Vitamins, minerals and fiber

It is important to get enough dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron in your diet. Eating enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help lower the risk of some diseases and other health problems. For example, getting enough calcium may lower the risk of osteoporosis, a disease that causes brittle bones as one gets older (see calcium section). Eating a diet high in dietary fiber helps with healthy bowel function. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products that have dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber, and are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol may lower your risk of heart disease.

 

Nutrients Without a %DV: Trans Fats, Protein, and Sugars

Trans fat, sugars, and protein do not list a %DV (Daily Value) on the Nutrition Facts label. Why?

Trans Fat: Experts say there is not enough information known to say how much trans fat you can have each day. Research studies link trans fat and saturated fat with raising blood LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, both of which raise your risk of coronary heart disease. Keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol as low as possible as part of a nutritionally balanced diet.

Protein: Proteins play an important role in your growth and the repair of your body tissues. A %DV needs to be listed if a claim is made for protein, such as "high in protein." Otherwise, unless the food is meant for use by those under 4 years old, no %DV is needed. Protein intake is not thought of as a problem for those over 4 years of age.

Sugars: There are no recommendations for the total amount of sugars you should eat in one day. The sugars listed on the Nutrition Facts label include natural sugars (like those in fruit and milk) as well as those added to a food or drink. If you are worried about getting too much sugar, make sure that added sugars are not listed as one of the first few ingredients. Other names for added sugars (caloric sweeteners) include: corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, honey, and maple syrup.

To limit nutrients that have no %DV, like trans fats and sugars, compare the labels of similar products and choose the foods with the lowest amount.


Footnote

This part tells you the Daily Values or the upper or lower limits for the nutrients listed if you take in 2,000 calories in one day. This part of the label does not change from food package to food package because it shows the recommended dietary advice for all Americans. The entire footnote may not appear on all food packages. Also, this information is just a general idea and individual needs vary. Teenage girls generally need about 2,000 calories each day to get enough nutrients to be healthy.

Examples of Daily Values
Based on a 2,000 Calorie Diet

NutrientGoalDaily Value
Total FatAim for less than65g
    Sat FatAim for less than20g
CholesterolAim for less than300mg
SodiumAim for less than2400mg
Total CarbohydrateAim for at least300g
    Dietary FiberAim for at least25g

WebMD Public Information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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