Why Reading Nutrition Labels Is Important

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There are many reasons why I read nutrition labels. Usually I read almost all the info on the label. Food labels carry vital information that consumers need to know before purchasing and consuming the item. These information can be helpful or detrimental for persons with different nutritional needs. The label not only carry the nutrition facts but other information that is of importance.

When purchasing food items you should be mindful that the items do carry labels with the exceptions of fresh fruits and vegetables or meat from the butchers. All packaged, processed or canned foods must carry a food label. In my country it is against the law to sell or promote food items without the proper labeling.


All food items must have:

  • Name of manufacturer
  • Address of manufacturer
  • Telephone of manufacturer
  • Ingredients
  • Nutrition information

Without a label the consumer wont be able to tell:

  • What kind of food it is (in the case of cans)
  • When the food was manufactured or processed
  • What is the shelf life
  • Where it was processed
  • The nutrition facts or nutrition data


Things I look out for when purchasing food items

When I purchase a food item that is not a fruit or vegetable there are some things I look out for. I Am very picky when it comes to where my food has been, so I look for:

  • What company processed or packaged my food. If it's a company I cannot recognise, I probably won't buy it and that's just me.
  • I check the expiration date. If it's too close to the expiry date I leave it alone since I might not use the item immediately.
  • I check the manufacture date. Some foods have very long shelf lives but I wouldn't want a food item that has been on the shelf for over six months. I prefer freshly packaged foods.
  • I make sure that what it says on the label is what I really want. For instance, if I am buying canned fish, I make sure the label says "In tomato sauce" instead of "brine". If I open the can and the fish in in brine then I have a case.
  • Nutrition information?. This is where it gets dicey. Below I will explain how to read the nutrition facts on a food label.

Nutrition facts

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Here are the specifics I look for when reading food labels


When reading food labels I look for:

  • Company name address phone number, in case I have an issue with the product, then I have some recourse.
  • Manufacture date and expiration details. Which date is the "best before date". As I mentioned above I need to know how close to the expiry date I the product is so I don't purchase something that will go bad before I use it.
  • Ingredients (if necessary). I need to know what products were used in the processing and manufacturing or packing of my food. I might add that I also scrutinize non-food items too, such as toiletries and cosmetics.

Nutrition Data

  • Amount per serving
  • Recommended daily amount or %. This is important to me because I want to know that I am getting value for my money and I am not spending on empty calories or foods with low nutritional value. It is also important to note the elements that can affect health, I will explain further on.
  • Calories per serving
  • Total fat content
  • Calories from fat
  • Protein per serving
  • Carbs per serving and total carbs
  • Sugar content

Other nutrients

  • Sodium. This might the one of the first things I look for because I am hypertensive.
  • Potassium. I want to make sure that the sodium is lower than the potassium. I also want to make sure that the recommended allowance of sodium is not met or close to the total daily allowance from one serving. When this happens then you know that with other items added to your meal, you might end up exceeding the daily allowance.
  • Fiber content is important to me too
  • Magnesium also help to balance water levels in the body which help to reduce high blood pressure.
  • Depending on the food item you look for the nutrients that should stand out more and see if you are getting value for money.
  • All other nutrients noting their importance to my diet.

Below is a table with items we regularly buy and the main nutrients found in these items. Also in the table are the daily allowance for the items.

Here are some items and what you should look for

Food Item
Major Nutrient Known For
Adult Recommended Daily Allowance
Canned pumpkin
Vitamin A
1000 IU
Tofu
Protein
50 grams
Canned Tuna
Mercury
0.4 micrograms
Welch's Grape Juice
Vitamin C
60 milligrams
Milk
Calcium
1000 milligrams
Brown Rice
Fiber
25 grams
Canned or Frozen Spinach
Iron
18 milligrams
Canned Salmon
Vitamin D
400 IU
Sunflower seeds
Vitamin E
30 IU
Any food item that's not fat free
Fat
65 grams
Canned hearts of Palm
Potassium
3500 milligrams
Tomato paste
Sodium
2400 milligrams

Why is reading the nutrition label important?

These are some reasons why reading the label is important:

  • Some persons have health issues that may require a certain amount of a nutrient
  • Some people may have health issues that require them to stay away from certain nutrients whether in high doses or any at all.
  • You might be on a diet and counting calories
  • You need to know what you are eating
  • You may be allergic to an ingredient
  • Expired food can cause severe gastrointestinal and other health problems
  • To make sure you are not overdosing on some vitamins and minerals
  • Having the manufacturer information is important for retuning or calling when you have a problem with the item.

How to read food labels

More by this Author


Comments 28 comments

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

My son and I were discussing food labels just a couple hours ago. It is really becoming important and truly so much is so bad for you. I have always watched salt and now I have to watch to not get too much potassium which most people want.

Very useful and interesting!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Jackie, it is very important to read the labels on food items, cosmetics and toiletries. The ingredients are as important as the nutrition facts. For those who have to watch their mineral intake, like you and myself we must see how much mineral the item contains.


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 4 years ago from eastern North Dakota

Interesting hub, Carolee. Depending on what I'm buying the one ingredient I look out for is hydrogenated fat, or "partially" hydrogenated, as my doc now says I have high cholesterol, and I believe that happened because of the prior years before I knew about those two fats, and I think another word for them is "trans" fat. I also watched both videos. In the first one I found it extremely hard to stay focused on what she was saying....


Turtlewoman profile image

Turtlewoman 4 years ago from California

Hi Cardisa,

I knew someone would create a Hub in reference to my question! (Although you should have waited for March to enter the contest because this is a FABULOUS article)

I ALWAYS read food labels now that I'm more conscious of what I eat. I usually pay more attention to protein and fiber content. I also read labels for skin products since we can absorb those ingredients through our skin.

Thanks for putting together a great hub!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi James, I was told I had cholesterol too. The good thing is that cholesterol is one of the easiest conditions to get under control with a change of the diet. Well at least it's the easier than hypertension and high blood sugar.

That girl is pretty...isn't she...would you prefer a less attractive narrator?


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Turtle woman, thank you for stopping by.

As for the contest, I could't wait. I need to publish publish and publish some more. Ask another question and I will answer...lol. The truth is I totally forgot about the contest!

Thanks for asking such a great question!


donnaisabella profile image

donnaisabella 4 years ago from Fort Myers

Thanks Cardisa, I am in the business of counting calories, knowing how much of this and that I should take because I am on the business of losing a lot of the fat I gained during and after my last pregnancy (a year ago). I have paid so much attention to what we all eat in our house and began to realize the great value of those labels. Some foods look so innocent and we are under the impression they are healthy when that is far from the truth! 'Read the label' indeed because it might just save an unnecessary visit to the doctor or missed opportunity. I learned more from here. Thanks for sharing.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Donna, welcome to my hubspace!

You are right about some foods looking quite innocent but might be quite disastrous to your health. Reading the label is most important to avoid the risks.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I've been reading food labels for years now. I tend to home in on the sodium cholesterol, and calories. If it's too high back on the shelf it goes.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Susan, my nemeses are sodium and fat! lol. I am hypertensive so no high sodium foods. Thanks for stopping by.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

...I once had a most cherished can sitting on my table and on the label it said CARDISA (and on the nutrition chart it said : HOTTEST DAMN WOMEN IN THE WORLD!) - and that's just Mr. Bombastic's way of saying you always do your homework and I always learn from you - so without further ado I will post this madly and gladly on my Facebook page with a direct link back here - lake erie time ontario canada 10:39pm


EyesStraightAhead profile image

EyesStraightAhead 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

I have just started paying attention and I am shocked at what some companies consider a serving! Some provide too little (Oreos come to mind) and ithers provide too many (nuts come to mind). Thank you for sharing!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Oh Mr. Bombastic, you are so wonderful. Thank you for sharing my work. Keep warm with warm wishes from my heart!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi ESA, isn't one packet of Oreos a serving?..lol...

Seriously I do know what you mean. What I done is to portion my sizes based on my daily need, so I can have as much of the required daily amount as possible.

Thanks for stopping be and leaving a comment. Have great week.


jenubouka 4 years ago

What an awesome hub Cardisa! The tomato paste gets me every time, and to think Congress claims it a vegetable for children. I will read the labels like a mystery novel if it is a new item and will not purchase the good if it has many ingredients I can not pronounce. For me I look at the cost of making it homemade, and while I may not have the motivation to make the good from scratch I end up doing so.

Hope many readers will read thoroughly and understand the vital benefits of reading food labels.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

H i Jenubouka, I can't stress the importance enough, of reading the labels. I know many people can't believe that canned tomato paste isn't rich with beta carotene and vitamin C like fresh tomatoes. It's best to make stuff for yourself or you end up with all kinds of ailments.

Thanks for reading and commenting.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

Well we just have to have canned food so much but I am cutting it way down. I found me a place once a week I get produce at an amazing clearance to get me through the week and that helps.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Jackie, processed food have so much sodium you wouldn't believe it. We don't use much canned foods in my house. The only canned food my fiancé loves is the Jack Mackerel (fish in tomato sauce).


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Super caned food info hub Cardisa. Unfortunately it's become pretty much a food buyer beware these days even with labeling. I only use canned food for emergency's as the linings in them are full of estrogen mimicking chemicals and other unhealthy things. Used to love Tuna but won't touch it now for the mercury content.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Alastar. I was going to put protein for the tuna since that's what we usually have tuna for but I decided to let the public in on the mercury content. I am not a fan of canned foods either and since I am hypertensive, I try to eat fresh foods as much as I can.

Thanks for stopping by Alastar, always a pleasure.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 4 years ago from USA

Here in the US, we have laws about labeling on food, but now things are showing up from the water that was added to the food that makes them unsafe. Some of the water supplies even have arsonic in them. This is from ground water that you would think would be safe.

It's too bad we can't just raise all of our own food like once was done. Few people have enough land to do that though or the time.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Barbara, we also have laws about labelling here too but we find people packaging food and drink, especially snack items with the proper labels and many of these items are not made with good grade ingredients. It's awful that ground water is that poisonous, but I believe that is the work of pollution.

Some of our people her in Jamaica are just plain lazy! They have enough land but refuse to work.

Thanks for stopping by Barbara.


jojokaya profile image

jojokaya 4 years ago from USA

Very informative hub. I am starting to read the food labels.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Jojokaya, that is a very good start. After a while it will be the most natural thing in the world.

Thanks for stopping by.


mr.felix 4 years ago

i learn allot Very informative i must say...thank you


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Mr. Felix, thank you for reading and leaving a comment.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

I never buy anything without reading labels, food, cosmetics everything.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hey Vinaya, that is great. I also practice that too. I just have to know what I am eating or using..lol. Thanks for the visit.

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