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Published on May 13, 2014

Guide to Understanding Food Labels

May 13, 2014

nutrition facts labelFood labels can help you make healthy food choices. But they can be confusing. Here are some quick tips for reading food labels:

Check Serving Size and Calories: All the information on a food label is based on the serving size. Be careful—one serving may be much smaller than you think. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories and nutrients, including the percent Daily Values (DVs).

Percent DV: This tells you if a food is high or low in nutrients. Foods that have more than 20-percent DV of a nutrient are high. Foods that have 5-percent DV or less are low.

Saturated Fat: Saturated fat is not healthy for your heart. Compare labels on similar foods and try to choose foods that have a 5-percent DV or less for saturated fat. Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Keep total fat intake between 20 percent to 35 percent of calories.

Trans FatTrans fat is not healthy for your heart. When reading food labels, add together the grams of trans fat and saturated fat, and choose foods with the lowest combined amount.

Cholesterol: Too much cholesterol is not healthy for your heart. Keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as low as possible.

Sodium (Salt): Salt contains sodium. Research shows that eating less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium about (1 teaspoon of salt) per day may reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

TIP: Many food labels say “low fat,” “reduced fat,” or “light.” That does not always mean the food is low in calories. Remember, fat-free does not mean calorie-free, and calories do count!

Fiber: Choose foods that are rich in fiber, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Sugar: Try to choose foods with little or no added sugar (like low-sugar cereals).

Calcium: Choose foods that are high in calcium. Foods that are high in calcium have at least 20-percent DV.

 

Source: National Institutes of Health

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