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How to understand the nutrition fact labels

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Food packaging information can help you to eat healthier or not, it depends on the way you will be reading and understanding.  Food labels should contain information such as energy per serving, amount of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, and sodium contained in the food. Some other information such as quantity and presence of vitamins are optional.

In order for the information to be useful, read and understood easily and correctly, the FDA has issued final amendments to update the nutritional labels for packaged foods, however, in this first label article we will explain what comes with those labels and how we can know if a particular food is healthy or do not.

Know the mandatory information items on the nutritional label of food packaging:

1 The portion (g or ml)

The portion (g or ml)

The first place you need to observe when looking at the nutritional table of the food is the portion reported because according to ding to that portion, all the other ingredients will be related to the amount. This portion represents the average amount recommended for daily consumption to maintain a healthy diet.

Attention:  Most of the time the portion does not correspond to the whole food. For example:  A pack of 90g of nuts can contain a nutritional chart based on a 30g portion, to know how much you ingested, in this case, you will need to multiply the value by 3.

Home Measure: As not everyone has a home food scale, home measurements have been created to make it easier to measure certain measures. Example: unit, portion, slice, spoon, cup etc.

Within the amount per serving, we can also know the number of calories (kcal) contained in that food. The kcal represent the energy that our body produces from the consumption of that food, can also appear as kilojoules (KJ), 1 kcal equals 4,2KJ, all references based on a need of 2,000kcal per day, an average for a healthy adult.

2 %VD

The acronym stands for daily value, it indicates the amount in calories (Kcal) and of nutrients that the food represents in relation to an average diet of 2,000kcal per day in percentage.

Example: If you find a soup dehydrated with 90% of the sodium VD, it´s a sign that this product already supplies almost the total of the recommended amount per day.

The daily value helps you get an idea of how much of that food you can consume per day, and also make comparisons between products and even between brands. You just need to make sure that the portions are similar, especially the weight, so it is easier to know the products and know the quality in nutrients.

That way, you can even determine which foods contribute much or little to your recommended daily allowance (higher or lower).

3 Carbohydrates

On the label we also find carbohydrates, it acts as the main source of energy for the body. When consumed in excess is stored in the form of fat, so it is important to consume an adequate amount of this nutrient per day, it is worth noting that this amount is variable and individual for each person.

Daily recommendation: 55% – 65% of VCT (total caloric value).

4 Proteins

Helps to build and conserve tissues, organs, and cells. In appropriate quantities, they guarantee the maintenance of health, provide a sensation of satiety and for athletes, their consumption helps in muscle hypertrophy.

Daily recommendation: 10% – 15% of VCT (total caloric value).

5 Total Fat / Lipids

They are highly energetic, aids in the transport of vitamins like A, D, E, K. Its consumption should be moderate because in excess can cause an increase of body fat/weight and consequent development of diseases. While 1g of carbohydrate has 1kcal, 1g of fat has 9kcal.

Daily recommendation: 25% – 30% of VCT (total caloric value).

6 Saturated fat

Contained in foods of animal origin, such as meats, cheeses, chicken skin, and butter.  The excess consumption of these foods increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, so it´s not recommended to exceed daily consumption.

Daily requirement: 22g

7 Trans fats

Also known as trans fatty acids, found mostly in industrialized products that carry hydrogenated fat in the preparation, have no important function in the body, and can still cause heart disease.

Recommendation: 2g per day maximum (not to harm health)

8 Sodium

Sodium

The nutrient is important for water regulation and proper brain performance. In excess, it causes harm such as fluid retention and increased blood pressure. Sodium is one of the constituents of cooking salt and is present in most industrialized products, even those that taste sweet. To avoid complications, keep an eye on the % DV of sodium and try to keep a distance from the salt shaker.

1g of Nacl (cooking salt) = 400mg Na (sodium)

Daily necessities: 6g of cooking salt = 2400mg of sodium.

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