The nutritional label is an obligatory system that allows you to know the nutritional information of an industrialized product, since it indicates which are its components and which can be found, in addition to reflecting which are the ingredients used in its preparation.
Reading the nutritional label helps to know what is inside the package, making it easier to make decisions when buying an industrialized product, as it allows you to compare similar products, evaluate the amount of nutrients that it provides and decide if the product is healthy or not. , allowing to control health problems such as: diabetes, overweight, hypertension and gluten intolerance, among others. However, it is useful for any person who wants to improve their eating habits.
The specifications of the nutritional label vary from one country to another, without embargo, most of them must specify the quantity of trans fats, sugars and if they contain gluten or no; You should also reflect if the product has traces of nuts, such as cacahuates, nueces or almonds, or shellfish, because people are allergic to these foods.
Image obtained from the FDA
To understand what is found in the nutritional label, you must identify the nutritional information and the list of ingredients, as indicated below:
General nutritional information is found in a table where it is possible to observe in the first place where the portion of the product is, the calories, the amount of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibers, salt and other nutrients such as sugar, vitamins and minerals .
For the general, the portion is standardized to facilitate the comparison with other similar products, for the general suele venir described in home measures as 1 slice of bread, 1 cup, 30 grams, 1 packet, 5 galletas or 1 unit, for example.
The portion will influence the calories and all the nutritional information that the product provides. In some foods it is possible to obtain nutritional information on the table per portion and/or per 100 grams of the product, it is important to pay attention to this information, as many times a product is promoted as it only has 100 calories, but when observe the nutritional label these calories are per 100 gy and the package contains 200 g, for example.
Calories are the amount of energy that food provides to the organism so that it fulfills all its vital functions. Each food group provides a quantity of calories, on average 1 g of carbohydrates provides 4 kcals, 1 g of protein provides 4 kcals and 1 g of fat provides 9 kcals.
In this section of the nutritional label, the amount of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fibers, vitamins and minerals that the product contains per portion or per 100 grams of same is indicated.
It is important that in this section special attention is paid to the content of fats, which, in general, specify the amount of saturated fats and trans fats that the food has, in addition to the amount of cholesterol, sodium and sugars, being important to limit them. consumption of these products, as they increase the risk of suffering from chronic diseases.
In addition, it can be observed that it indicates the total amount of sugars, both naturally present in the foods that make up the product, as well as the milk sugar or the natural fruit sugar; such as the added sugars, being the one that is added during the manufacturing process, such as sacarosa or dextrosa, jarabes and miel, for example.
As for vitamins and minerals, it is important to check what amount they contribute to the body, since ingesting an adequate amount of these micronutrients could reduce the risk of suffering some illnesses and improve health. Therefore, in case of suffering a condition where it is necessary to increase the consumption of some of these nutrients, one should choose the one that provides the greatest amount, an example would be in cases of anemia, where it is necessary to increase the consumption of milk.
4. Percentage of daily value
The daily value percentage, represented as % DV, indicates the concentration of each nutrient per serving of food, generally based on a diet of 2000 kcals per day. Therefore, if the product indicates that it contains 20% of sugar, it means that a portion of this product provides 20% of the total sugar that must be ingested per day.
The ingredient list indicates the amount of this nutrient present in foods, structured from the largest to the smallest, that is, the first ingredient that appears is the one that is found in the largest proportion.
Therefore, if in a package of galletas in the list of ingredients it indicates the first sugar, it must be kept alert, because it has a high proportion. If the wheat harina bread is the first to be mentioned, it means that the quantity of white harina is high and the food is not whole as indicated by the package.
The list of ingredients on the label also includes food additives, such as coloring agents, preservatives and sweeteners used by the industry, which sometimes appear as names or are indicated with numbers.
How to choose the “best” product
In the table below, we indicate the ideal quantity that must have the products of some components, in order to choose the most healthy option:
|components||recommended quantity||Other names for this type of ingredients|
|Total grease||The product is low in grease when it contains less than 3 g per 100 g (solid) and 1.5 g per 100 ml (liquid)||Animal fat/oil, butter, chocolate, milk solids, coconut, coconut oil, milk, milk cream, ghee, palm oil, butter, margarine, tallow, sour cream.|
The product is based on saturated fats when it provides 1.5 g for every 100 g (solid) or 0.75 g for every 100 ml (liquid) and 10% of energy.
|trans fats||Avoid foods that contain them.||If the nutrition label mentions that it contains “partially hydrogenated fats” it means that it contains less than 0.5 g of fat per portion of the product.|
|Sodium||Preferably choose products that contain less than 400 mg of sodium.||Monosodium glutamate, MSG, sea salt, sodium ascorbate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium nitrate or nitrite, vegetable salt, yeast extract.|
|sugars||Avoid products with more than 15 g of sugar per 100 g. Lo ideal are those that provide less than 5 g for every 100 g of product. Products that provide less than 0.5 g per 100 g ml are considered as “sugar free”.||
Dextrose, fructose, glucose, syrup or maple jarabe, honey, sucrose, maltose, malt, lactose, brown sugar, brown sugar, maize jarabe, maize jarabe high in fructose, concentrated fruit juice.
|fibers||Choose products with 3 more per serving.|
|calories||The product is low in calories when it has less than 40 calories per 100 g (solid) or 20 calories per 100 ml (liquid).|
|Cholesterol||The product is low in cholesterol when it contains 0.02 g per 100 g (solid) or 0.01 g per 100 ml (liquid)|
Food additives are ingredients that are added to products to maintain or improve their safety, freshness, flavor, texture or appearance.
Currently, there is a lot of concern about the use of additives in foods, due to which they have been related to several health problems, which is why they have been looking for more natural and healthy alternatives that can fulfill these functions.
However, the different food safety agencies have strict regulations regarding the safety of these ingredients, since in order to accept a food additive, the available scientific evidence is reviewed. In general, if there is any concern about the security of the additive for its consumption, actions will be taken accordingly.
The most known food additives are:
In the case of artificial colorants, there is some serious concern about their consumption, which may be related to hyperactivity in children, and it is ideal to avoid foods that contain them.
The main artificial colors used in the food industry are: amarillo nº 5 or tartracina (E102); Amarillo nº 6, Twilight Amarillo or Sunset Amarillo (E110); blue nº 2 or indigo carmine (E132); blue #1 or bright blue FCF (E133); green #3 or fast green CFC (E143); azorubin (E122); erythrocin (E127); red nº40 or red allura AC (E129); and ponceau 4R (E124).
A more healthy option is to choose products that contain natural colorants, including the main ones: paprika or red pepper (E160c), turmeric (E100), betanin or betabel octopus (E162), achiote or onoto (E160b), carmine or cochinilla extract (E120), lycopene (E160d), caramel color (E150), anthocyanins (E163), saffron and chlorophyllin (E140).
Sweeteners are substances used to replace sugar, they can be found under the name of: acesulfame K, aspartame, saccharin, sorbitol, sucralose, stevia and xylitol.
Stevia is a natural sweetener obtained from the plant Stevia Rebaudiana Bertonies, which according to some scientific studies could be a good alternative to artificial sweeteners. Learn more about the benefits of this sweetener.
Preservatives are substances that are added to foods to minimize the deterioration caused by the presence of different types of microorganisms.
Among the most well-known are nitrates and nitrites, used mainly in the preservation of smoked meats and sausages, to prevent the growth of dangerous microorganisms; in addition to providing them with a salty touch and the red color that characterizes them. These preservatives have been related to cancer, as they could increase the risk of suffering under certain conditions.
The nitrites and nitrates can be identified on the nutrition label as sodium nitrate (E251), sodium nitrite (E250), potassium nitrate (E252) or potassium nitrite (E249).
Another well-known preservative is sodium benzoate (E211), used to inhibit the growth of microorganisms in acidic foods, such as soft drinks, bottled lemon juice, cured meats, jalea, salad dressings, soy salsa and other condiments. This ingredient has been linked to cancer, inflammation and hyperactivity in children.
How to compare nutrition labels
To compare products, the nutritional information must be evaluated, taking into account the same portion of each product.
For example, if the nutritional labels of 2 types of pan provide the composition for a 50 g portion, you can compare them without any additional calculation. However, if the product label provides nutritional information for 50 gy and the other for 100 g, then you must make the list to properly compare the products.
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