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In order to be successful in weight loss, you have to be able to read the nutrition label. Healthy eating in today�s society entails much more than strolling through the supermarket like your mother or grandmother did decades ago. Back in the 50s to early 60s there was no global obesity crisis like there is today.
Although the supermarket of the 50s to early 60s had plenty of cereals, pastries, crackers, and snack foods, there were no trans fatty acids, high fructose corn syrup, or aspartame to be concerned with. And even though monosodium glutamate did exist, it was not as widespread as it is today.
The Congress of the United States made it mandatory in 1990 for food manufacturers to put nutrition labels on their products. Unfortunately though, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't have enough personnel to check each product labels' accuracy.
Due to savvy food marketers and loopholes in FDA regulations, it is an absolute necessity that every food shopper be an expert in being able to read (a more accurate term would be �decipher�) a nutrition label. A couple of examples will serve to illustrate my point. According to FDA guidelines, a food company can claim his product contains �no MSG Added� if none is added. You may see the following claims on a nutrition label 'No MSG' or 'No MSG Added' or 'No Added MSG' even though monosodium glutamate is present. Some food processes produce MSG although none is technically added. Technicalities or no, the bottom line is that MSG exists in the final product!
Another notable example is trans fats. Since last year (2006) the federal government has made it mandatory for food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fat on a product's nutrition label. There is a caveat however. If the amount of trans fat is less than � gram, food manufacturers can claim zero trans fat! The problem is that there are hundreds of snack foods on the market which may contain a small amount of trans fat. The standard American diet includes many of these products on a daily basis. They amount ingested daily can easily top several grams.
The food nutrition label is composed of two parts: Nutrition Facts and Ingredients. Nutrition facts lists serving size and the amount of servings per container or package. It also breaks down fats, i.e., saturated, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, sugar, and protein and various vitamins and minerals. The section of the nutrition label called �Ingredients� lists the substances which go into the product. Ingredients are listed according to amount. The first ingredient listed is in the greatest amount; the last ingredient listed is in the smallest amount.
Avoid any product in which the first ingredient listed is sugar. Refined sugar comes in many different and confusing names: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), evaporated cane juice, cane sugar, beet sugar, glucose, sucrose, maltose, maltodextrin, dextrose, sorbitol, fructose, corn sugar, fruit juice concentrate, barley, malt, caramel, and carob syrup. This list is not exhaustive, and there are many more.
Do not purchase any product which lists any or all of the following anywhere in the ingredients list of the nutrition label: high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, trans fats (anything which is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated), or MSG.
Here is an example of a product ingredient list. The product under inspection is ShopRite�s Bread Crumbs (Plain.)
Ingredients: ('enriched wheat flour', malted barley, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, water, 'HFCS', 'corn syrup', 'partially hydrogenated vegetable oil'), ('soybean and/or cottonseed oil and/or canola oil, corn oils')... This is not the complete list of ingredients, but the substances I have listed are enough to illustrate their use.
The terms that are in single quotes are potentially harmful to the health. Let�s consider the vegetable oils first. These are: soybean, cottonseed, canola, and corn. These vegetable oils, in addition to sunflower, safflower, and peanut, are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. The standard American diet (SAD) contains too many sources of omega-6 fatty acids.
The first ingredient listed for ShopRite�s Bread Crumbs is enriched wheat flour. �Enriched� means that the wheat was stripped of its germ and bran. The �germ� contains essential fatty acids and vitamin E and the �bran� contains B vitamins, fiber, and minerals. The endosperm has the carbohydrates (starch) and protein. The refining process removes the most beneficial and nutritious part of the wheat
HFCS. High fructose corn sugar is a sweetener that was introduced into consumer products in the early 1970s. Before then almost all of our sugar came from sugar beets or sugar cane. But manufacturers found out that deriving sugar from corn, especially HFCS, is much cheaper. The per capita use of HFCS in 1970 was � pound.
By 1997 the average American use of HFCS was an astounding 97 grams per day! This equates to 78 pounds per year! Today its use has increased tremendously, contributing to this country's rising obesity epidemic.
The product which contains the greatest number of grams of HFCS is soft drinks. It is also found in candy, ice cream, frozen yogurt, Popsicles, fruit bars, ketchup, pasta sauce, soups, and hamburger buns (this list is by no means exhaustive!)
When food manufacturers first began using HFCS they didn't realize its negative impact on the body. It has no nutrients (it devoid of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.) It also leeches micro nutrients from the body. That was then. But since then food manufacturers have discovered that HFCS not only make consumers fat, but it also increases their hunger tremendously. HFCS does not cause the protein leptin to be released to signal the brain that your stomach is full. At the same time it doesn't suppress ghrelin, the substance that tells you that you are hungry.
Corn syrup. Sugar. The SAD has too much sugar. It is in the form of artificial sweeteners such as saccharine, aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal), and sucralose (Splenda), and HFCS and sucrose (ordinary table sugar.)
Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Whether the nutrition label says 'partially hydrogenated' or 'hydrogenated', it is a trans fat and should be avoided.
Every nutrition facts label has a column labelled % Daily Value. An example will illustrate what it means.
Westbrae Natural Vegetarian Organic Black Beans has 5 grams of dietary fiber per serving. The % daily value (DV) column has 18% listed for this fiber. This means that 5 grams of fiber is 18 percent of the total I should eat per day if I am on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. That means that I need 82 percent additional grams of fiber to fulfil my dietary requirements for that day.
If the % daily value (% DV) of a nutrient ranges from 10% to 19%, it is a good source of that nutrient; if it is 20% or greater, it is an excellent source.
The math: If 18% DV is 5 grams, what is the total number of grams of fiber I should have in a day?
Set up this ratio: 5 grams is to 18% as unknown grams is to 100% (100% represents total number of grams of fiber in a day.)
5/18 = unknown grams/100 (5 over 18 = unknown grams over 100)
unknown grams = (5 x 100)/18 = 500/18
unknown grams= 27.77 grams which is 28 grams in round numbers.
Based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, I need a total of 28 grams of fiber daily according to this particular nutrition label.
How many more grams of fiber do I need to fulfil my daily requirement? 28 grams - 5 grams= 23 grams of fiber.
After eating one serving of Westbrae Natural Vegetarian Organic Black Beans, I need to eat an additional 23 grams of fiber from other food sources.
What if I choose to eat 2 servings of these beans. That's a total of 10 grams. I would then need 28 grams - 10 grams= 18 additional grams.
(Read this caveat about nutrition labels.)
New nutrition front of package labels to be rolled out within next few months