Thursday, May 19, 2011

Understanding Nutrition Facts

Have you ever really looked at the nutrition facts on anything you buy? I used to always glance at the calories and totally skim over the important words next to it: PER SERVING.  I always check the sodium level though, and that’s something I’ve done even before I was trying to really lose weight. These are the only things I ever really paid attention to. Let me just tell you that skimming the facts is not enough, you need to really understand what each percentage means for your health.

Remember, this is one of the most useful tools you will ever learn in your quest for losing weight. Part of eating healthy is actually knowing what it is you're really eating.

Serving size:  Pay close attention to this number, as it is probably the most important one on the box.The numbers and percentages that follow this number are based on ONE SERVING – so be sure to pay attention.  Another thing to keep an eye open for is servings per container.  Just because the box of Girl Scout cookies  says 1 serving is 180 calories, that does not mean the whole box is 180 calories!

Fat: The most important numbers are for saturated and trans fats. These are the two you want to AVOID. Polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, think of these numbers aren’t so bad. You want food which contains as little saturated fat and trans fat as possible. You want it to have MORE polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Fat free doesn’t mean it’s good for you! Pay close attention here.

Cholesterol : Something found in animal products, meat. Limit your intake to 300 milligrams or less. Too much can raise your chances of heart disease.

Sodium: The recommended daily limit for an average adult is 2,000 milligrams. Sodium can elevate your blood pressure.

Potassium: 4700 milligrams is suggested for adults. Too little can cause an irregular heartbeat, weakness, a general lack of energy, etc.  Potassium is very important, and sadly most people don’t even come close to the suggested amount!

Total Carbohydrate: Pay attention to the sugar and fiber numbers before you decide if the carbs in your food are unhealthy or not. Examples of healthy carbs would be fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans. Bad carbs would be sugars, pastries, cakes, potatoes, fruit juice, soda.

Dietary Fiber: An adult should consume 21-35 grams of fiber daily. Fiber is important for regular bowel movements. Anything with the word "whole" in it is a good bet, but check the label to make sure!

Sugars : Examples are glucose, dextrose, fructose, and galactose. They are not really good for you in any amount, honestly. Eat sugary foods sparingly! One thing to remember is that sugar is prevalent in supposedly healthy foods because they need extra flavor, diet foods, or low fat foods have especially high levels.

Ingredients : One thing to remember when looking at ingredients is that the first one listed is the most commonly found ingredient in the product. My friend Laurin likes to say that if she can't pronounce it, she won't be buying it, and it's a great philosophy! Avoid everything with high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame-k) artificial colors, MSG, caffeine, anything “enriched”, and also hydrogenated oil.

Nutrients: You really want to be buying things that are high in Vitamins A & C. Most people aren’t getting enough potassium, calcium, or iron. Try sticking to foods with higher percentages per daily value here!

I really hope this information helps you. I actually have printed out a list I downloaded that I bring with me whenever I go shopping now so I know what to look for. I still haven't quite gotten used to what I should really be focusing on, nor have I memorized the amounts. I suggest you do the same when you do your grocery shopping! I can't find the link for the info I printed out but this should do nicely: Happy shopping!

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