Nutrition Facts-Do You Check The Ingredients List
The Nutrition Facts panel, required on most packaged foods in the US and other developed countries, gives you a somewhat comprehensive overview about nutritional values of different processed foods. Its major intent is to provide nutritional facts that are important to people with certain health conditions, as well as to help all of us consumers making wise food choices.
The following nutrients are required on every Nutrition Facts Panel:
Calories from Fat
Total Fat, Saturated Fat and Trans Fat
Vitamin A and C, Calcium and Iron
Unfortunately the Nutrition Facts Panel does not require the totals of essential omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and glycemic indices of foods or how fast the food releases its energy.
Even though the nutrition facts panel helps me make good decisions about the foods my family eats, it is still one of the last things I read and consider when buying a packaged or canned food.This is because the Nutritional Panel doesn't tell me WHAT IT IS that I am eating! For example, you can see on any apple juice label that there are X-number of grams of sugar in each serving. But by reading the nutritional facts panel you don't know what kinds of sugars it contains.
Some of the best apple juice contains only "pasteurized, pure, unfiltered juice from organic apples." But there are other apple juices that contain high fructose corn syrup and/or preservatives. The point is, you would never know this unless you pay attention to the list of ingredients.
Mott's apple sauce list of ingredients
Always check the Ingredients List
Let's look at two popular kids choices of processed foods - apple sauce and apple juice. Most moms would consider these healthy. Indeed, they can be healthy substitute for a real apple or fresh juice.
The picture on your right shows a popular brand of kids apple sauce which contains nothing but apples, water and vitamin C. Kids apple sauce, juice and other processed snacks can contain anything from sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, to natural flavors (nobody knows what these really mean), artificial coloring and preservatives. The nutricional facts panel of processed foods can read very similar nutritional values like sugars, saturated fats, or proteins. Their LIST OF INGREDIENTS, however can be totally different. If you really want to know what you are eating, you read the ingredients first.
Sadly, high fructose corn syrup may be the first ingredient in many juices or processed candy.The negative impact of high fructose corn syrup on people's health has been under close examination for some time, and there is clear evidence that too much of this highly processed ingredient can have severe detrimental health impacts.1
What is the Ingredients List?
The 1st and the 2nd ingredient are the ones that are the most prevalent in any product. The longer the list of ingredients is, the farther away you should stay from this product. It only makes sense not to buy processed foods which ingredients we can even pronounce.
Lately, there have been many theories suggesting that the human genetic make up has designed for people to survive only on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and perhaps meat. While we should all do our best to eat fresh produce and cook things from scratch as much as we can, our busy lives unfortunately dictate otherwise. Majority of us cannot afford to buy everything fresh, or have time to stay home and cook our meals from scratch.
The food industry has done their fair share of lobbying and monopolizing the supermarket's shelves with delicious looking packages of processed foods labeled "All Natural" or "Low Fat".
Nutritional facts of any processed foods might look ideal to you, however reading the LIST OF INGREDIENTS is very important as it actually tells you what is it that you are eating. The Nutritional Facts Panel of different packaged goods like bread, cereal, crackers or pasta can look pretty much the same showing no saturated fat or low sugars, but by reading this only you can't differentiate between the quality of ingredients foods are made of.
1Bray, G.A., et. al, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79, pg. 537-543, 2004.
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