Nutrition facts are required to be added by law in many countries. The nutrition food label helps to decide before buying a packaged food item. The nutrition label is more important when you want to control your food intake for sugar, salt, fat, carbohydrates, etc. The nutrition label is divided into sections displaying:
- serving size
- percent daily values (% DV)
Generally, it breaks down the information to show the number (percentage) of calories, carbs, fat, fiber, protein, and vitamins per serving of the food. The nutrition label helps consumers compare the nutrition facts of similar products. From the food label, one can:
- Choose foods that are higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Choose foods low in sugars, saturated fat (Trans fat), and sodium (salt).
- Monitor % Daily Value of each nutrient to keep it within the daily limit of 2,000 calories and can be different depending on age, sex, activity level, current weight, etc.
How to read the food label?
- Look at the serving size.
- Find the ingredient that is critical for your health. Then, compare and select the right set of food packages.
- Then compare the % DV (5% DV or less is a little).
- Find the total calories you have already taken on that day and generally in the week.
- Besides serving size, calories, and % DV, other essential nutrient information are fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, fiber, sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, etc.
- Total carbohydrates—fiber and glucose—should be monitored. Fiber-rich foods are healthier.
- Protein supports several biological activities. If you exercise, eat protein-rich foods.
- Limit additional carbs because they add calories without nutrition.
- High salt consumption can affect hypertensives. Select low-sodium foods.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Nutrition labels include the percentage of key vitamins and minerals including vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium. Eat nutrient-rich foods.
- The product’s ingredients are listed in order of abundance. Avoid items with long lists of unrecognizable artificial substances.
- Labels may say “low-fat” or “high-fiber.” Make sure these statements are true and fit your diet.
Percent Daily Value
Percent Daily Values are the daily proportions of nutrients that are recommended to be consumed or not to exceed. The percent daily value indicates how much a single serving of a packaged food or nutritional supplement contributes to your daily diet. For instance, if the daily value for a particular nutrient is 300 micrograms (mcg) and a packaged food or supplement contains 30 mcg per serving, the percent daily value for that nutrient in a single serving of the product is 10%. If you consumed one serving of the product, you would have met 10% of your daily requirement for that nutrient and could obtain the remaining 90% from other foods or supplements.
Interpret Percent Daily Values
Determine whether a serving of food is high or low in a specific nutrient by using the %DV. As a rule of thumb:
- Less than 5 percent daily value per serving is considered low for a nutrient.
- More than 20 percent daily value of a nutrient per serving is deemed to be high.
Choose more frequently items that are:
- Increased fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium content.
- Reduced amounts of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
The percent daily value is based on a daily diet of 2,000 calories, which may not be appropriate for everyone. If your daily caloric intake is higher or lower, the percentage of the daily value will change accordingly. In addition, individual nutrient requirements vary based on age, gender, activity level, and health status. Consequently, the percent daily value is a general guideline and not personalized counsel.
Consider your specific health objectives and dietary needs when deciphering food labels. A diet consisting primarily of whole, minimally-processed goods is generally the most beneficial for health and well-being.