Reading Food Labels
The Ins and Outs of What’s Listed on the Label
They may not look like it, but food labels may be some of your best friends when managing your cholesterol and trying to slow in your arteries. Once you learn to decode the 8 parts of a food label, you’re well on your way to making healthy food choices.
The good news is that the info on food labels is standardized, so if you can read one, you can read them all, and pretty soon you'll be eating by the numbers.
Serving Size: All the information on the label is based
on one serving. Even a small package may contain several servings.
Calories: Your daily intake of calories should be just
enough to help maintain a desirable weight. On average, women
should consume about 1,800 calories daily, while men should
consume about 2,500 calories daily.
Total Fat: Try to keep your daily intake of total fat to
about 30% of your calories. Think of it as an average of 3
grams of fat for every 100 calories. And remember, healthy fats—
and —may not be listed. Simply
subtract the saturated and trans fats from the total fat to see
what you’re getting.
Saturated Fat: Commonly found in animal products, including
fatty meat and dairy products, as well as in coconut and palm oils,
saturated fat has also been shown to increase LDL or (bad)
cholesterol. As a result, less than 7% of your daily calories
should come from saturated fat. That’s about 7 grams saturated fat
per 1,000 calories.
Trans Fat: Like saturated fat, trans fat has also been shown
to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol. It’s commonly found in vegetable
shortening, snack foods and commercial baked goods like cookies and
Cholesterol: For a healthy diet, try to keep the amount of cholesterol
in the foods you eat to under 200 milligrams per day.
Dietary (Soluble) Fiber: Alters digestion and extends the feeling of fullness, and can
also lower LDL cholesterol. Try to eat 5 to 10 grams of dietary fiber per day.
Some sources are peas, beans, and apples.
*% of Daily Value: According to the FDA, that little asterisk refers to the footnote in the lower
part of the nutrition label which reads “% DVs are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.”
This statement must appear on all food labels. But the remaining information in the
full footnote may not be on the package if the size of the label is too small. When
the full footnote does appear, it will always be the same, no matter what the product,
because it shows recommended dietary advice for all Americans. The daily values (DV)
for each nutrient are based on public health experts’ advice. DVs are recommended
levels of intakes, and those in the footnote are based on a 2,000- or 2,500-calorie
diet. Note how the DVs for some nutrients change, while others (for cholesterol and sodium)
remain the same.
Brushing up on the nutritional values of the foods you eat is a great way
to help get your diet on the right track. But did you know that some foods
actually can help lower cholesterol?