If you are anything like me, you throw grocery items in your cart without taking a single look at the nutrition facts label. This is because many Americans don’t understand how to read the label correctly.
All of the information on the label changes for each item, so in this article, we will stick to a basic understanding of each category on the label.
The serving information is the first thing you will come across when reading the label. It will tell you how many servings are in the container and the recommended serving size. For example, there may be four servings in a container with a serving size of one cup. This would mean that there are four cups total in the container. Servings sizes are meant to be easy to compare with other foods. That is why they are labeled with familiar units, such as cups or pieces. The serving size represents how much of a specific item you should eat in one sitting, though different people have different caloric intake needs.
The rest of the nutrition label information is going to be based on the serving size. Nutrient and calorie information, for example, is all based on one serving. If the label has the serving size at one cup and you end up eating two, you need to multiply the nutrients and calories by two.
Moving down the label, you then come across the calorie information. Calories measure how much energy you get from a single serving of a particular food. If something has 280 calories per serving and you eat two servings, you will consume 560 calories.
If you are looking to maintain or achieve a healthy body weight, you should try to balance the number of calories you consume with the calories you burn. All bodies are different, so the amount of calories you need will most likely not be the same as a person with a different age, sex, height, weight, or level of physical activity will need.
The next category you come across is nutrients. This section is more complex because it lists a variety of nutrients that each individually impact your health. The nutrient facts can be used to support your dietary needs, whatever they may be. It is up to you and your doctor to decide what nutrients you need more of and the ones you want to avoid.
Some nutrients that could lead to negative health effects are saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. Consuming too much of these is tied to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. It could also be hard to meet important nutrient goals while staying within recommended calorie limits.
On the other hand, there are nutrients that people often do not get enough of or are recommended to consume more of. These include dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium. Incorporating more fiber into your diet can lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels and reduce your calorie intake. Higher vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium in your diet can lower your chances of developing osteoporosis, anemia, and high blood pressure.
Percent Daily Value
The percent daily value reflects the number of nutrients in a single serving of food. For example, if the label says that there is 20 percent of your daily calcium, one serving would have 20 percent of the calcium you would need for the day. The percent daily value is based on a 2,000-calorie diet for healthy adults. Whether your diet is higher or lower in calories, you can still use the daily value as a guide.
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We hope this information on how to read a nutrition facts label is helpful.
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