How to Understand Food Labels and Nutrition & Health Claims: Cardiac College

How to Understand Food Labels and Nutrition & Health Claims: 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. Nutrition
claims are regulated statements made when
a food meets certain criteria. They are optional,
and may be found only on some food products.
While food companies must meet these regulations
in order to have the claim appear on the food
product, people can sometimes find them confusing
and misleading. Here are some common examples.
Sometimes this claim will appear on items
that never had cholesterol in the first place
since cholesterol is only found in animal
products. For example, potato chips, maple
syrup, licorice, don’t have cholesterol
in them. While the product truly is low in
fat, light or fat free, you may be getting
more of another nutrient. For example, sometimes
these foods can be higher in sugar or salt.
Other times ‘light’ may refer to the colour
or texture of the product. Refer to the Nutrition
Facts and Ingredient List to really see what
you are getting. Often, many people think
that reduced sodium means the same as low
in sodium. In fact, they are different. For
example: “less sodium” soy sauce simply
means that there is not as much sodium when
compared to regular soy sauce. On the other
hand, low sodium means that there is no more
than 140 mg of sodium PER serving. This simply
means that sugar has not been added to the
item. However, the product may still be quite
high in overall sugar content. For example,
unsweetened or no sugar added juices do not
have sugar added, but have a high amount of
naturally occurring sugar. Remember these
Label Reading tips the next time you shop
to make heart healthy choices.

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