Understanding Food Labels
Ever wonder what your food labels really say? Everyone knows that food labels can be an important source of information about calories and the nutritional value of foods they eat; which becomes an important tool in trying to maintain a heart healthy diet. What isn’t as clear, are the ingredients listed on foods or drinks.
Ingredients are listed in order of quantity but that doesn’t tell the whole story? When it comes to sodium, added sugars, saturated and trans fats, it can be hard to tell just how much there is in the product. Any of these ingredients in excess can damage your heart health and increase risk of heart disease and stroke. Many ingredients can be labeled by different names. Sugar can be listed as high-fructose corn syrup or corn syrup, agave nectar, barley malt syrup or dehydrated cane juice. Try to choose foods and beverages low in added sugars.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. The average American consumes twice as much. For people that have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, understanding their intake of sodium is important. Sodium also has several names: salt, sodium benzoate, disodium or monosodium glutamate (MSG) and sodium nitrate.
Trans fats can raise your bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease your good cholesterol (HDL). Look on product labels or for food low in saturated fats and trans fats. You’ll find these ingredients listed as partially hydrogenated oil and hydrogenated oil. Most of these fats are found in some types of fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
Food labels may not give the actual quantity of each ingredient. A manufacturer can sell a juice that can contain mainly apple juice (which is cheap) with some added berry juice (which costs much more). Because most consumers prefer berry juice, the label will likely say in large letters “made from real berries” and have large pictures of berries. The ingredient list will show there is more apple juice than berry juice but to determine amounts is impossible.
Only pure fruit juice can be called “juice.” Several imitation juice products contain no more than 20% actual juice and many can contain none at all. Many of the “juice” products contain sugar solutions with added colors and flavors. They suggest real fruit such as fruit beverage, fruit nectar, and fruit cocktail. It might be a better choice to buy a product that contains 100% juice and then add water to that product which would be less expensive and you’ll know exactly what your family is drinking.