With increasing health issues like diabetes, thyroid, blood pressure, and most importantly, obesity, which is a problem even in young kids, buying food products packed with healthy ingredients has become a must. For such reasons, everyone is looking out for healthy foods that can provide their bodies with essential nutrients.
Out there are so many commercial ads available, which confuse us on what we are eating. When we are shopping, our mind gets puzzled with multiple questions, like does the food item we are picking contains white flour or purely made of wheat? Does it contain processed or unrefined sugar or not? What Trans fats it contains? What amount of saturated fats, artificial flavors, carbs, and other such ingredients does it contain? And a lot more!
So, can we know the most correct answers to all such questions right before we put them in our shopping cart?
The good thing is, yes, it’s possible!
You can know almost everything about a packaged food product with food labels mentioned at the back of its packaging. And this is what makes important to have a complete understanding of different kinds of food labels.
Why is it Essential to Read Food Labels?
I know you definitely want to pick the best for you, your kids, and your entire family. Even when your child insists for a snack you intend to ensure that it is a healthy pick. Though you may find most of the commercials featuring kids, this does not imply that the specific food product is ideal for your kids. It’s simply a marketing technique for the ad-makers. So make sure you are not fooled by such ads and end up picking only best and healthy choices.
You can achieve this by picking a product after having a complete understanding of its food label. Usually, this aspect is ignored, and if you are not aware then the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has made food labels mandatory for every packaged food. It’s because only a food label can tell you everything about the core ingredients used for preparing a product.
Now, you know why food labeling is extremely important. Let’s glance at some of the important facts about it.
Food Labels – Important Nutritional Facts Explained
You can learn about food labels on Indian products only by having a complete understanding of some important terminologies. So, glance at some of the important jargons mentioned in the food labels.
- Calories from Fat – This term implies the total number of calories a product contains from fat. For example, if the ‘calories from fat’ for a product of 150gm is mentioned as 20, then the entire pack will include 40 calories from fat. Here 40 calories are low; 100 calories are quite moderate, while 400 calories are extremely high.
- Calories per Serving – This term indicates the sum of calories you will intake from per serving. For example, if a 150 gm of serving delivers 100 calories, then the entire pack of 300 gm will deliver 200 calories.
- Number of Servings – The ‘number of servings’ indicate the total number of servings a product can serve. For example, if a pack of cereals can cater to one serving, then a pack of 300 gm can cater to two servings.
- Serving Size – This is a highly important term mentioned in the food label. The ‘serving size’ denotes the total quantity of one normal portion consumed by an individual. The total pack’s weight is not a normal serving size. For example, if a packet of chips is 75 gm and its serving size is 15 gm, then only a handful of chips are considered as one serving. This means you can consume one serving for five times.
Food Labels – Additives and Preservatives
To check what additives and preservatives are added to a product, you can check the following labels. You can visit the website noshly.com to read more on this.
- Lecithins – E322/322
It is added commercially in foods that need a natural lubricant or emulsifier.
- Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids – E475/475
It is an emulsifier of light yellow, light tan, medium brown color. It holds oily, viscous, hard, or solid texture.
- Magnesium Di-L-Glutamate – E625/625
It is an off-white or white powder or crystal having no odor.
- Polyglycerol Esters of Interecterified Ricinoleic Acid – E476/476
It is an extremely viscous liquid.
- Fatty Acids – E570/570
It is a carboxylic acid with long aliphatic tail that in unsaturated or saturated form.
- Calcium Di-L-Glutamate – E623/623
It is odorless and white colored crystalline powder or crystal.
- Monoammonium L-Glutamate – E624/624
It is also white colored, odorless crystal or crystalline powder.
- Sorbitan Monostearate – E491/491
These are tan or light cream flakes that are waxy hard have a very slight odor.
- Glutamic Acid L(+) – E620/620
These are white or colorless crystalline powder or crystals.
- Monopotassium L-Glutamate – E622/622
It is an alternative to non-sodium MSG and is added to enhance the flavor of the food.
- Glycerol – E422/422
This is an odorless and colorless viscous liquid that is extensively used in various pharmaceutical formulations.
- Disodium 5-Guanylate – E627/627
Also called as disodium guanylate, it is a natural salt from disodium added to enhance the food flavor.
- Disodium 5 – Inosinate – E631/631
This food additive is usually added to potato chips, instant noodles, and other sorts of snacks.
- Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate – 482
It is a brittle solid with off-white or white powder with a certain odor.
- Calcium Lactylates – E482/482
This is also a brittle solid powder with white or slightly yellow color.
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole – E320/320
It is a waxy solid with slight yellow or white color and a light characteristic odor.
- Polyoxyethylene (8) Stearate – 430
It is a pasty, waxy, soft, and cream-color substance with fatty odor.
- Polyoxyethylene (40) Stearate – E431/431
These are cream-colored flakes that have a faint odor and waxy solid texture.
- Polyoxyethylene (20) Sorbitan Monolaurate – E432/432
This amber or lemon color liquid has a faint odor.
- Polyoxyehylene (20) Sorbitan Monooleate – E433/433
This lemon or amber color liquid has a light odor.
- Polyoxyethylene (20) Sorbitan Monostearate – E435/435
This orange to lemon color liquid has an oily or semi-gel consistency with a light odor.
- Polyoxyethylene (20) Sorbitan Tristearate – E436/436
It is a waxy solid, tan color substance with faint odor.
- Triphosphates – E452/451
These are esters or salts of polymeric oxyanions prepared from linkage of structural units of tetrahedral PO4 with oxygen atoms.
- Butylated Hydroxytoluene – E321/321
It is flaked or crystalline solid having white color and a light aromatic odor.
- Polyphosphates – E452/452
These are esters or salts of polymeric oxyanions prepared from linking of structural units of tetrahedral PO4 with shared oxygen atoms.
- Saccharins – E954/954
It is added mainly to cookies, toothpaste, medicines, candies, and drinks because of its sweet taste.
Food Labels – Sodium and Cholesterol
The next two important terms that you need to consider while picking a product is sodium and cholesterol.
- Sodium – When your age is increasing, the amount of salt intake must be decreased. It is because too much salt consumption increases the risks of developing kidney problems, high blood pressure, bloating, and thyroid. Packaged or tin products, soya sauce, brine, and similar items contain very high levels of sodium. You must refer to RDA before purchasing a product.
- Cholesterol – High levels of cholesterol can block arteries and increases the probabilities of heart attack and other heart ailments. Therefore, it is best to pick products labeled as 0 mg cholesterol. But at the same time, you must check the amount of sugar and Trans fats available in a product.
Food Labels – Fats
There are varieties of fats mentioned in a food label. Here, check food labels for different fats.
- Saturated Fats – Such fats increase cholesterol level in blood. Items like coconut oil and palm oil contain increased levels of saturated fats. Some prominent sources of saturated fats are dairy products, chicken, meat, cheese, and more.
- Total Fats – It is related to the total fats present in a product. It is specified for a total weight of per serving or pack.
- Trans Fats – Such Trans fats are also known as partially hydrogenated oil. Simply, they are an economical alternative to butter. But it is a common form of fat that boosts bad cholesterol. Mostly, they are added to enhance the durability of a product. Items like biscuits, chips, bread, dairy products, and baked food contain high levels of Trans fats. This kind of fat is even unhealthier than saturated fats and also reduces the level of good cholesterol in the body.
- Unsaturated Fats – Such fats are healthy for the body as they reduce the risk of developing heart ailments and cholesterol.
- Monosaturated Fatty Acids – This form of fat is good for health and must be preferred over Trans fats and saturated fats. Most of the nuts contain this kind of fat. For this reason, a large number of people prefer products made in groundnut oil or olive oil.
- Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids – Such fats are needed for the body for adequate functioning like blood clotting, fighting inflammation, and tissue building. Omega-6 and Omega-3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Items like flax seeds, soybean oil, and walnuts are rich sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Food Labels – Sugar and Carbohydrates
Another set of food labels, which most of must read and check is related to the category of carbohydrates and sugar.
- Sugar – Just like a glucose drink, sugar also provides high energy to our bodies. According to the health experts, the daily intake of sugar for an adult must not be more than 6 teaspoons, which is around 18gm. This amount is for sugar consumed from packaged products or sugar consumed in processed food. It does not relate to natural sugar found in fruits and other natural substances.
- Carbohydrates – Another instant source of energy is carbohydrates, which can immediately increase blood sugar levels. If you have a sedentary lifestyle or suffering from a medical ailment like diabetes then consume only the prescribed amount of carbohydrates.
Food Labels – Other Important Categories
- Natural Flavors – You’ve come across numerous food products labeled as ‘contains natural flavors.’ Such products would always get the first position in your shopping cart. But if you are buying packaged products containing natural flavors, then even such items contain chemicals. The only difference is that natural flavors are derived from animals or plants sources, while artificial flavors are extracted from inedible products.
- Foods with High Fiber Content – Another thing that most of us practice is picking up foods mentioned as ‘contains fiber.’ But these may not be a perfect choice. You must pick foods containing at least 3 or more grams of fiber, as only they can provide your body with an adequate amount of fiber.
- Low Fat – Items labeled as low fat does not necessarily mean that they will be low in calories too. In fact, most of the companies add other unhealthy components in order to reduce fat. But even such products may increase calorie intake.
- Whole Grains – Another category of most purchased food is ‘whole grains.’ Most of the manufacturers may mention products with even minute level of whole grains in them as ‘whole grains rich.’ Carefully read the label and purchase items with a considerable volume of whole grains.
- Do Check Carbs and Not Only Sugar – There are some products that can be labeled as zero in sugar, but they may contain complex carbs, which is not so good for health.
- Sugar-Free Does Not Mean Carb Free – Purchasing sugar-free products would not definitely keep you away from carbohydrates. Hence, pick sugar free product with a low level of carbohydrates as only then you can keep your body fit.
RDA or Recommended Dietary Allowance
How you can achieve the perfect level of vitamins, proteins, calcium, magnesium, iodine, iron, zinc, and other minerals to be consumed on an everyday basis along with other essential nutrients like folic acid?
Don’t have an answer?
Need not to worry! Just stick to RDA recommendations in order to meet the daily intake of essentials minerals and vitamins.
RDA recommends the daily suggested percentage of each nutrient available in one serving of a product. Most of the times, there is only one common mentioned that suggests DV. But, you must check the DV of all nutrients as well.
Here consider an example. If a serving of cereal is supplying 60% of sugar and 20% of RDA iron, then you have to consider consuming other products so that you can meet the daily nutrient requirement of your body.
I hope this article has explained to you well all important aspects associated with food labels. Don’t feel shy reading these nutrition facts. Reading food labels will take only a few minutes and this way you can shop healthy and nutrient-rich products for you and your family.
Do check food labels to be a smart buyer and live a fit and healthy life!