December 13, 2010
You can find nutritional facts on almost everything you buy. Unwrap the mystery of nutritional information and get the most out of what's inside the food you eat.
The first thing you need to know is that all the numbers are based on a 2,000 or 2,500 calorie diet. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that a calorie tells how much energy you get from food, but most of us take in more than 2,000 or 2,500 calories in a day. If you eat more than 2,500, it will take more energy to burn off those extra calories.
For the most part, nutritional facts are broken down into four sections:
The serving size is a measurement of food on which the nutritional facts are based. It's also measured in units like cups or pieces, depending on the food.
This number tells you how many servings are in each package. For a small bag of chips, the serving size is 1. This means that one small bag of chips is one serving size. For a family-sized bag of the same chips, the servings per container number is much higher. The nutritional info on the label is the same because the FDA still suggests you only eat one serving. If you have more than one serving of chips from that family-sized bag, you multiply the nutritional facts by the number of servings you eat. And that number can really add up.
These numbers tell you how much energy you get from a serving of food. The difference between the two numbers is that Calories from Fat is part of the Calories. It means that of the serving you eat, part of the calories you eat will be from fat. The higher the Calories from Fat, the higher the food is in fat.
Most fruits and vegetables will most likely have no Calories from Fat, meaning that there is no fat in them.
Nutrients are simply things that your body gets from the food that you eat. Things like fat, cholesterol, sodium, fiber and vitamins are all things your body needs. But if we break these down into two different groups, we can get a good idea of what our nutritional label is telling us.
Total Fat — Fat helps your body absorb vitamins and helps your immune system, but if you take in more than the recommended daily amount, it could lead to trouble.
The FDA recommends that you cut back on your fat intake as much as possible, and according to the Mayo Clinic, a diet high in saturated fat and trans fat can lead to obesity and heart attack.
Fiber — Fiber is the part of plant foods that your body doesn't break down. It helps in digestion, and if it's insoluble fiber, that means it can lower your cholesterol and help your blood sugar levels.Vitamins and Minerals — The FDA says getting enough vitamins like A, C, and D help you lower your risk of getting diseases and conditions like osteoporosis.
The percentages you see on the right-hand side of the nutritional info give you a percentage of your daily value of the food's nutrients, vitamins and minerals. If you have macaroni and cheese with a daily value of 18% of your total fat, you would be eating 18% of your daily-recommended amount of fat for one serving, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
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