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How To Read Nutrition Labels For Good Health
Ingredient labels on packaged foods can feel confusing or misleading. Maybe you’re not sure what to look for or what’s important. Fortunately, confusing nutritional labels don’t have to be a challenge. It’s simply a matter of knowing what to look for. Most ingredient labels follow the same pattern, so once you get the hang of it, you’ll be set.
Often, the manufacturers’ serving size and your serving size may not be the same. For example, if there are supposed to be four servings in a package, and you’re going to eat the whole package, you’ll need to multiply every number on that nutritional label by four.
Calories are simply a way of measuring the amount of energy a particular food delivers to your body. The higher the calories or more “calorie-dense” a food is, the more energy it provides.
The key is simply to balance intake and output. Presuming you’re maintaining your weight, you’ll want to be eating roughly the same number of calories you expend each day. If weight loss is your goal, you’ll want to consume fewer calories than you burn each day, forcing your body to burn its fat reserves for extra energy.
Many of us think fat is causing us to be – well, fat! Not only do many other factors influence weight gain, including total calorie consumption and quality of calories consumed, but our bodies process different types of fat differently. Specific fats – the monounsaturated kind found in olive oil and avocados – are essential for cell function and overall health. Other types of fats – hydrogenated and trans fats, largely found in heavily processed foods – cause countless health complications, especially when eaten in excess.
Carbohydrates and Fiber
Carbohydrates, like fat, are a source of fuel for our bodies. Fiber, the indigestible “bulk” that passes through our digestive systems, collecting waste for elimination, is like an “anti-carb” that helps slow down the digestion of sugars and carbs. In general, the more fiber a food has, the greater its ability to slow the absorption of carbs, thereby reducing blood sugar spikes.
Sugars are carbs – the most addictive kind. So addictive, in fact, there is no recommended daily amount of sugars; less is always better. That said, some kinds of sugars are worse for us than others. Naturally occurring sugars, such as in fruits, are far easier on the body than heavily processed sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup.
Protein is necessary for creating strong and powerful muscles, breaking down toxins, and moving molecules around the body. However, most American diets are already extremely protein-heavy. Unless you’re underweight or specifically looking to build muscle, you probably don’t need to add any more meat to your diet (and may even benefit from vegetarian meals a couple of days a week).