Today, we’re explaining some of the things you may not know about nutrition labels and how they work.
All Listed Ingredients Are Sorted by Weight: The ingredients on a nutrition label are listed in a specific order for a reason. The first item on any ingredients list is the one that weighs the heaviest in the product, while the remaining ingredients are listed in descending order.
Serving Size Can Vary Widely: Food manufacturers are legally required to list truthful information on nutritional labels. However, they do have control over serving sizes, and serving sizes can vary widely between two similar products. One bag of chips might be labeled as having 100 calories and 200mg of sodium per serving, for example, but there are five servings in each bag.
Understanding % Daily Value: Every nutrition label has a % Daily Value section listed. It’s the amount of one particular vitamin or nutrient found in each serving relative to your total recommended intake per day. Daily Value is based on the average adult’s size and physiology, but it’s certainly not customized to your unique needs. Consider getting a Science Based Nutrition blood test that analyzes your biomarkers to determine optimal nutritional intake.
5% is Low, 20% or More is High: As a general rule, the FDA advises that 5% DV or less is low, while 20% DV or more is high. Pay attention to these numbers while doing a quick scan of the nutrition facts label.
Calorie Guides Are Based on a 2,000 Calorie Diet: The average person should consume 2,000 calories per day. However, your specific calorie needs can vary widely. The FDA recommends you check calories on a nutrition facts label based on the following guidelines:
- 40 calories is low
- 100 calories is moderate
- 400 calories or more is high
Most People Already Consume Enough Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium: The first nutrients on a nutritional label are fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Generally, health experts recommend limiting the amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium as part of a healthy diet. Most Americans already get sufficient amounts of these nutrients – or even too much – as part of a normal diet.
Most People Don’t Consume Enough Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, or Iron: Check the nutrition label for dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Most Americans do not get sufficient amounts of these nutrients in their diets.
Not All Foods Have a Nutrition Facts Label: In the United States, all packaged food must have a nutritional facts label by law. Certain foods, however, are exempt, including raw fruits, vegetables, and fish. Products like coffee, tea, and food coloring are also not required to have nutrition facts labels because they contain an insignificant amount (i.e. zero amount) of all required nutrients.
Certain Small Businesses Do Not Need to Add Food Labels to Products: Have you ever wondered why products sold at farmer’s markets don’t have food labels? Well, these products are generally not required to have food labels. Small businesses with less than $50,000 of food sales or less than $500,000 of total sales are not required to add nutrition facts labels. However, many small businesses add nutrition facts labels before hitting the threshold because it gives products added transparency.
Understanding Upper Limits and Lower Limits: Some nutrition facts labels or nutrition guides use an upper and lower limit. An upper limit means you should “eat less than” that amount, while a lower limit means you should “eat at least” that amount.
Certain People, Including Adolescents and Post-Menopausal Women, Have Unique Daily Value (%DV) Needs: The Daily Value category doesn’t work for everyone. Consider calcium as an example. Experts recommend getting 1,000mg of calcium per day (100% DV) as part of a normal, 2,000 calorie diet. However, experts recommend that adolescents (particularly girls) consume 1,300mg (130% DV) of calcium per day, and that post-menopausal women take 1,200mg (120% DV) of calcium per day. Women who are nursing or pregnant also have unique nutritional needs.
Calories Are Energy: You may think of calories as just a number on your food. It may be more helpful, however, to think of calories as energy. If you consume more calories, you have more energy to burn. If you don’t burn that energy, you’ll gain weight. The calorie count on the nutritional label also refers to the total energy from all of the ingredients in the food, including the total energy from the carbs, fats, and protein.
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