Do you understand what food labels are telling you? Yes. Okay so what are good
fats, what are bad fats? What is an RDA? How much fibre should we eat? What
is better for us, sugar or starch?
If you can't answer any of these key questions about food labels then please read on:
We have designed our own food label to illustrate this article. Please take
a look. The packet information below refers to a packet of mixed nuts.
|of which is starch
|of which is sugars
The food label - or nutritional value - is a breakdown of the calories,
proteins, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins and minerals found in food. As you
can see mixed nuts are high in fat, are a medium source of protein and are
low in carbohydrates. Below we discuss each category in more detail.
Energy describes the total amount of calories per 100g and more importantly
the total number of calories per serving. This is an important point because
many food labels quote the calorie total per 100g but carry a serving of
2-4 times that much - meaning that you will need to multiple the 100g total
by the same number.
Proteins are amino acids. These acids are essential for tissue re-growth
and muscle repair. Our diet should consist of between 15-25 percent protein.
That means that if a food contains 100 calories, between 15-25 calories
should come from amino acids.
Carbohydrates is the body's and mind's main source of energy. Carbohydrates
are made up of starch (complex carbohydrates) and sugar (simple sugars).
Overall your starch intake should by far exceed your simple sugar intake.
Simple sugars are digested quickly and as such eating too much can increase
your appetite (you'll feel hungry quicker) and even increase the risk of
obesity (you'll start to compensate by eating more). Aim to eat between
50-60 percent of your diet as complex carbohydrates.
Fats come in two main types - saturated and unsaturated (monounsaturated
and polyunsaturated). Fats are essential for tissue repair and hormonal
equilibrium. However as 1g of fat contains 9 calories (more than twice that
for the same weight of protein and carbohydrates). there is a danger that
eating too much fat could in fact increase your body's fat storage levels.
The recommended amount of dietary fat is suggested to be between 25-35 percent
of total calories and I'd suggest that you try not to exceed this level
Fibre helps regulate bowel movement, prevents colon cancer and aids the
cholesterol lowering process. It is recommended that we eat approximately
30g of fibre a day.
High intakes of sodium are linked to high blood pressure and feelings of
dehydration. As such it is recommended that we don't eat more than 9g of
salt a day.
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) are sometimes carried by food labels to
suggest how much of one (or a group) of vitamins we should consume for good
health. Try and follow these recommendations as closely as possible each
day. If you find this hard then I suggest that you purchase a multivitamin.
This supplement usually carries essential vitamins as 100% of the RDA.
Low fat foods MUST carry only 3g of fat per 100g of food. However, because
these foods are low in fat, food companies usually add sugar in order to
regulate the taste and palatability of the food.
"85% Fat Free" doesn't mean a food is low fat option. It means
that if 85% of the food is fat free, then the other 15% IS fat! This is
okay in principle - we can eat 25-35% of our diet as fat. But too many of
these meals may increase your total calorie intake. So beware, a low fat
food may still mean that you can add weight and fail to lose weight.
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