Deciphering Food Labels: Your Health Depends On It

To take charge of your family’s health you need to be a savvy food label reader.

If you are having to manage your blood sugar or fat intake because of diabetes or other health issues, wise label reading is a must.

When reading food labels, know that some words used on them are backed by law and indicate specific things. Other words found on food labels can mean anything or nothing.

Deciphering Food Lables

Low or Reduced Fat

The FDA requires items labeled “low fat” to have fewer than 3 grams of fat in one serving. Food labeled “reduced fat” must contain a minimum of 25 percent less fat than the original form of the product.

However, some reduced or low-fat foods may contain added amounts of sodium or sugar to make them more flavorful, so check those nutrition facts before purchasing.

Extra Lean

The words “extra lean” on a label are governed by strict FDA regulations. Each 100-gram serving of extra lean poultry, meat or seafood must have less than 5 grams of total fat, fewer than 2 grams saturated fat, and no more than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.

Products labeled “lean” are allowed up to 10 grams total fat, or twice the total fat of “extra lean” foods, and can have up to 4.5 grams saturated fat. So, if you are cutting back on total fat, extra lean is the way to go.

Multigrain

The word “multigrain” on a label means the product contains two or more types of grains, but they do not have to be whole grains. This means cereal, bread, crackers or chips can be called multigrain even if they contain two refined grains – those that have the fiber-rich parts milled out.

Foods that contain whole-grains will have “whole wheat” or “whole oats” listed within the first few ingredients on its label. Products that carry the Whole Grains Council symbol are required to have at least eight grams of whole grains in one serving.

Made with Real Fruit

On a food label, “real fruit” may mean fruit juice or fruit extract instead of whole fruit. Juices and extracts may deliver fewer nutrients and contain more sugar than whole fruit. Plus, there are no laws governing how much “real fruit” is required to be in a package for the product to put this claim on the label.

To find out if there is whole fruit in the product, look at the order of ingredients. Fruit, not fruit juice, will be one of the first three ingredients mentioned if it is a true real-fruit food.

Low and Reduced Sugar or No Sugar Added

“Reduced sugar” on a label indicates the food has 25 percent less sugar than in its original form. The words “low sugar” can mean anything since this term is not regulated. “No sugar added” does not mean the product is low in sugar, but that no sugar was added-in during its preparation or cooking/baking process. The product may contain fructose that will be indicated as “sugar” on the label’s nutrition-facts panel.

Be aware that sugar may be listed on a label as molasses, nectar, corn sweetener, honey, evaporated cane juice, syrup, or several words that end in “ose” such as dextrose. Four grams of sugar, by any name, equals about one teaspoon of sugar.

99 Percent Fat Free

It sounds as if only one percent of the total calories comes from fat, but that is not what this means. It indicates that 99 percent of a given weight of the product is fat-free. So, if a food weighs 100 grams then one gram comes from fat. Each gram of fat gives you nine calories so there may be more fat calories than you would expect, depending on the serving size.

Source: Health Freedoms

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