I’m a big advocate of buying fresh whole foods and steering clear of packaged goods. Realistically though, many of us will end up with some packaged foods in our kitchen. Reading the label is your best guide to choosing the most healthful options. How can you tell whether one breakfast cereal, for example, is better than another? Here are some tips for checking the Nutrition Facts panel:
1- Check the serving size and servings per container. Serving size is always the first item on the label and tells you how many portions are in the whole box. All other information is based on that serving size.
2- Check the saturated fat and trans fat content of the food. For a general healthful diet, keep saturated fat and cholesterol low and avoid trans fat completely. Look for foods that have 0 grams (g) of trans fat (alias name is “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”) and are lowest in saturated fat and cholesterol.
3-Compare the sodium content to the calories per serving. You’ll want to keep sodium as low as possible. A rule of thumb: choose items in which the sodium content is less than or equal to the calories per serving. For a food with 250 calories per serving, look for a sodium content of no more than 250 mg.
4-Look at the fiber content of the food you’re choosing. Any food with more than 5 g of fiber per serving is a good choice for fiber. Aim for 25 to 35 g of fiber per day in total.
5-Look at the sugar content of the food you’re considering. Steer clear of foods that have sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, corn sugar, fructose, or high-fruc- tose corn syrup among the first three ingredients. Other sugar aliases to watch for include agave nectar, brown sugar, cane sugar, corn sweetener, dextrose, maltose, fruit juice concentrate, and glucose.
6-Decipher the percent daily value. Located on the Nutrition Facts label, the percent daily value is based on someone who eats exactly 2,000 calories a day. It’s a useful tool to compare the nutritional value of two items quickly (assuming the serving size is the same). As a general rule, when the percent daily value
of a particular nutrient is around 20% or more, that’s considered high in that nutrient. That can be a good thing if it’s fiber we’re talking about, but not so good if it’s sodium or saturated fat.
Remember that the reason fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains don’t have nutritional panels is that they don’t need it! Try to keep packaged foods to about 10% of your diet and eat whole foods 90% of the time. It will reflect greatly in your health!
Dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help protect your organs, keep your body warm, help your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones too. Your body definitely needs fat – but quantity and quality is very important. There is so much information out there on what fats to eat and which ones to avoid. To make things more confusing, some go by alias names in the supermarket… if you don’t know your trans fats from your mono’s, today and tomorrow’s posts should make things clearer! We are going to look at the BAD fats today: Essentially they fall into 2 categories,Trans-fats and Saturated fats and they raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in your blood and mostly lower your good cholesterol (HDL) levels. TRANS FATS are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid at room temperature. Another name for trans fats is “partially hydrogenated oils" or “trans fatty acids” so look out for that on food labels. Companies like using trans fats in their foods because they’re easy to use, inexpensive, act as a preservative for long shelf-life, and give foods a desirable taste and texture. Many fast-food outlets use trans fats to deep-fry foods because oils with trans fats can be used many times in commercial fryers. Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, and increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. They can be found in many foods, especially in fried foods like French fries and doughnuts, and baked goods including pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, pizza dough, cookies, crackers, and stick margarines and shortenings. SATURATED FATS have a chemical makeup in which the carbon atoms are naturally saturated with hydrogen atoms, and they are typically solid at room temperature (think butter). Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Be aware that many foods high in saturated fats are also high in cholesterol which raises your blood cholesterol even higher. The majority comes mainly from animal sources, including meat and dairy products. Examples are fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, lard and cream, butter, cheese and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk. In addition, many baked goods and fried foods fall into this category. The general consensus in the medical world seems to be that saturated fat should be controlled and consumed in infrequently in small quantities. Some plant foods, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil, also contain primarily saturated fats, but do not contain cholesterol. As a general rule, be kind to your heart and body, avoid trans fats at all costs and limit saturated fats as much as posisble. Check my post tomorrow on the good fats that help lower your cholesterol.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. When added to our processed foods, it masks off flavors and makes the blandest and cheapest foods taste wonderful. Glutamic acid is a neurotransmitter that excites our neurons (not just in our tongues). This electrical charging of neurons is what makes foods with added free glutamic acid taste so good. Since free glutamic acid is cheap and since its neurotoxic nerve stimulation enhances so wonderfully the flavor of basically bland and tasteless foods, such as many low-fat and vegetarian foods, manufacturers are eager to go on using it and do not want the public to realize any of the problems. Unfortunately, MSG can cause problems in many people and has many documented side effects, especially in children. Adverse reactions include: Headache, Flushing, Sweating, Facial pressure or tightness, Numbness, tingling or burning in face, neck and other area, Rapid, fluttering heartbeats (heart palpitations), Chest pain, Nausea, Weakness and so on.
Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as a food ingredient that's "generally recognized as safe," the use of MSG remains very controversial. For this reason, when MSG is added to food, the FDA requires that it be listed on the label.
How do you spot MSG on food labels? It goes under the food additive code E621. You also need to look out for the following ingredients on products as these ALWAYS contain MSG:
Glutamate, Monosodium glutamate, Monopotassium glutamate, Glutamic acid, Calcium caseinate, Gelatin, Textured protein, Hydrolyzed protein (any protein that is hydrolyzed), Yeast extract, Yeast food, Autolyzed yeast, Yeast nutrient.
When you have Chinese food, make sure you ask if MSG is added to your food and request that they remove it.
When you are shopping in the supermarket, do you always opt for low-fat products as opposed to full-fat?There are generally 3 ingredients that food manufacturers add to give food its flavour: fat, sugar and salt.
I would say that 99% of the time, when fat is taken out, sugar and salt are added to enhance the flavour. Salt and sugar are far worse for your health then fat…in fact fat is essential for our health whereas sugar and salt are detrimental. Most of the time, many other ‘chemical’ ingredients are added to make the food look, behave and taste the same as the full fat version. The illustration shows an example of low-fat peanut butter VS full-fat peanut butter. Just look at the differences in the sodium and sugar levels, and the ingredients lists.
The same is true for cheese, yoghurts etc…Please read the labels when you are next in the supermarket and make the comparison yourself. My recommendation is to always opt for the full-fat version of everything you buy. The trick to weight-loss is to eat healthy food that enhances your health and well-being, in the right quantities for your body…its not about putting chemical low-fat versions into your body that, yes, will help you lose weight but will leave you unhealthy, unbalanced and vulnerable to disease.
Its important to read labels and make your own informed decisions. The fewer the ingredients of course, the better…
Are you ready for change? Join our Detox Workshops