How to Read a Nutrition Facts Label & Ingredients List: Cardiac College

Reading a food label can sometimes be confusing
to read. What should I be looking at? What does this mean for my health? Use the food
label to make informed food choices. The food label can provide nutrition information like
the Nutrition Facts Panel, Ingredient List and Nutrition &/or Health Claims. Almost all
prepackaged foods have nutrition facts. Some exceptions are fresh fruit and vegetables,
raw unground meat, poultry, fish and seafood, foods prepared or processed at the store like
bakery items and salads, foods that contain very few nutrients like coffee beans, tea
leaves, spices, and alcoholic beverages. Using the Nutrition facts label is important because
you can easily compare similar foods, decide what foods have a little or a lot of a nutrient,
choose foods for special diets and of course make informed food choices. The first thing
you want to check is the serving size. The information or amounts listed on the Nutrition
Facts tables are based on a manufacturer specified amount of food within a suggested serving
size range. You can also compare products that have similar
serving sizes or weights or even compare foods that you would consume at one meal. For example,
comparing the nutrients in 1 bagel to the nutrients in 2 slices of bread. Another important
part of reading a food label is the percent daily value, or % DV. Use the % DV to help
you choose healthier foods. The % DV shows you if a serving of food has a little or a
lot of a nutrient. When reading the % DV, remember 5% or less is a little, while 15%
or more is a lot. For most patients with heart disease, you want to have more fibre and less
saturated fats, trans fats and sodium. If you’re comparing two types of the same products,
be sure you’re comparing the same serving size. Then take a look at the % DV to compare
which might be a healthier choice for your needs. For example, let’s take a look at
these two cereals. If you’re looking to have more fibre, 1 cup of Cereal A has 30%
Fibre. Cereal B only has 4% of fibre per cup. Choosing Cereal A would give you a higher
fibre option. The ingredient list shows all the ingredients for a food by weights, from
the most to the least. For good heart health, avoid foods that include hydrogenated vegetable
oils. Partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils in an ingredient list means it has trans-fat.
These are fats that raise LDL (lousy) cholesterol and lower HDL (healthy) cholesterol levels.
Remember these Label Reading tips the next time you shop to make heart healthy choices.

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