In daily life we are buying and using processed food. Every food product we buy has information written on it. It essential to read nutrition label and understand what does it mean. There are rules and regular which control specification of this information. As consumer you need to understand how this piece of information should be applied.
One part of the label includes ingredients and use of food additives. Food additives are natural or artificial ingredients used while preparation. They improve text, flavour, taste and shelf life of the product. You must be noticing expiry date on this label. Along with expiry date of the product ‘best before’ date is specified. It is important to check this DATE before buying any food product.
Reading Nutrition Label on Food Product:
The first main part of this label specifies serving size. Serving size is the amount of food item taken at a time. Example one serving can be 15 gm or one table spoon in case of mixed fruit jam. There are standard serving sizes for food item to be used with units such as ups, spoon, pies or grams. Depending on the product category they are used on label. Knowing correct serving size help you understand how many servings you are consuming. To count calories and nutrients in daily diet – knowing serving size is useful.
Calories: – important section on nutrition label is about calories. This number suggests how many calories you will get from one servings of the product. There is another column which specifies calories of % daily value. This is based on 2000Kcal diet. Example – Person having2000Kcal on daily basis will get X Kcal after consuming 2 spoon mixed fruit jam.
In short it will be a alarming number for you if you are trying to lose weight, manage blood sugar etc. if the product contains fat or oil – it also specifies calories coming from fat. There is a following categorization about calories:
- 40 Kcal is low
- 100 Kcal is moderate
- 400 Kcal is high
Consuming high calorie diet leads to obesity and weight gain.
Carbs and Proteins: – These are part of important nutrients for our health. Carbs and proteins must be considered. Under carbs there is one raw for carbs from sugar. This indicates how sugar does this product has? Sugar is an empty calorie and adding up this to daily diet increases calories consumption. If you are a diabetic or over weight person should limit carbs intake.
Total Fat & Cholesterol: – Saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol are terms which come along with FATs. Trans fat is formed oils during processing of oils. Converting oils (which are liquid in form) into solid form produce transfat. Trans fat are not good for heart health. Products like bakery products, biscuits, cookies etc contain transfat. Cholesterol comes from milk and all non veg products. No vegetable oil contains cholesterol. (There are many misleading advertisements which use term cholesterol free. You should know where cholesterol comes from!) . Any food item which is providing less 5 gm fat per serving is low in fat content.
- Fat <5gmper serving is low in fat
- 5-10 gm per serving is medium fat
- <10 gm per serving is high fat content.
Next time when you are grabbing high fiber biscuits or salty namkin do check its fat content and let me know. (It is aprox from 13-15 gms per servings) . This is the hidden cause of your weight gain.
Dietary fiber: – Important part in processed food. Usually processing of food items results in low fiber content. Health food segments contain high fiber food items. To understand how much is the fiber content – you must look for this field. Any food item providing <5gm fiber per serving I low on fiber. More than 5 gm is good.
Vitamin A, C, calcium and iron: – Many food products are fortified with nutrients. This was started to avoid deficiencies in masses. Like Salt was fortified with iodine. Use this column to understand your nutrient requirements.
Food labeling in India is governed by Food safety and standards authority in India along with AGMARK, BIS etc. There are various laws based on food products. As a consumer we need to understand the terms used here and how we can apply it in day to day life. If you have any query, comment or information on the topic do share here.