The Diet Detective: Understand Your Food Labels

 
Why it Matters
: Sugar, in particular added sugar, can be incredibly unhealthy, leading to weight gain, increased triglyceride levels and lower HDL (good cholesterol), which has been linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
 
Sodium Claims
 
What it Means:
Sodium Free: Less than 5 milligrams per RACC (or for meals and main dishes, less than 5 milligrams per serving if the serving size is larger). Contains no sodium chloride or any ingredient that is generally understood to contain sodium. "Salt Free" must also meet the criteria for "Sodium Free."
 
Low Sodium: 140 milligrams or less per RACC, or per 50 grams if RACC is small. For meals and main dishes, 140 milligrams or less per 100 grams.
 
Very Low Sodium: 35 milligrams or less per RACC, or per 50 grams if RACC is small. For meals and main dishes, 35 milligrams or less per 100 grams.
 
Reduced or Less Sodium: At least 25 percent less sodium per RACC than a comparable food without reduced or low sodium (or for meals and main dishes, at least 25 percent less sodium per 100 grams).
 

Why it Matters: Many packaged foods are high in sodium. The ones to look for are those labeled low sodium and sodium free, both of which criteria are clearly defined. Reduced sodium, on the other hand, just means that the food is lower in sodium than the traditional food ­ which means it may still be too high to be healthy. Too much sodium is linked to an increase in blood pressure, which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Daily Values (DVs)

What it Means:

Nutrient Recommended Daily Value, based on a 2,000 calorie diet. (You can determine your calorie needs here: www.bcm.edu/cnrc/caloriesneed.htm.) All of these might not be included, generally they're not; however, many are required to be on the label by the Food and Drug Administration.

  • Total fat: 65 grams (based on 30 percent of 2,000 calories)
  • Saturated fat: 20 grams (based on 8 percent to 10 percent of 2,000 calories)
  • Cholesterol: 300 milligrams
  • Total carbohydrate: 300 grams (about 60 percent of 2,000 calories)
  • Fiber: 25 grams
  • Sodium: 2,400 milligrams (mg)
  • Potassium: 3,500 mg
  • Protein: 50 grams (about 10 percent of 2,000 calories)
  • Vitamin A: 5,000 International Units (IU)
  • Vitamin C: 60 mg
  • Calcium: 1,000 mg
  • Iron: 18 mg
  • Vitamin D: 400 IU
  • Vitamin E: 30 IU
  • Vitamin K: 80 micrograms (?g)
  • Thiamin: 1.5 mg
  • Riboflavin: 1.7 mg
  • Niacin: 20 mg
  • Vitamin B6: 2 mg
  • Folate: 400 ?g
  • Vitamin B12: 6 ?g
  • Biotin: 300 ?g
  • Pantothenic acid: 10 mg
  • Phosphorus: 1,000 mg
  • Iodine: 150 ?g
  • Magnesium: 400 mg
  • Zinc: 15 mg
  • Selenium: 70 ?g
  • Copper: 2 mg
  • Manganese: 2 mg
  • Chromium: 120 ?g
  • Molybdenum: 75 ?g
  • Chloride: 3,400 mg

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