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The Significance of Undertanding Nutrition Facts in Food Labels

Updated on May 30, 2013

Understanding nutrition facts in food labels are often seen as important to people who are watching their diet. Reading food labels for may is a futile exercise however, the significance of this habit to one's health and nutrition should not be undermined. The nutrition facts in food labels provides relevant information on the proper amount to be consumed in order to prevent overeating.

Not many know about the meaning of the different food contents and their implication to ones nutrition and health. Understandably, reading these nutritional data might take time to digest but it should not be associated only with people who are dieting. Learn the habit of reading nutrition facts on food labels. If done properly, it is the key to eating right and healthy. And yes, it does not mean calorie-counting . Here's a simple guide to learn to properly understand those seemingly 'cryptic' nutrition writings in the most common food labels.

Image credit: Dietpsyche
Image credit: Dietpsyche | Source

Terms to What to Watch Out For

Serving sizes

A serving size is one of the most important data shown in food labels. It is often in grams, ounces or pieces. It simply tells the consumer what constitutes a serving size. You will find out that knowing this accurately helps one to accordingly. It also indicates how many serving sizes a pack contains. A bag of chips may contain 3 or more serving portions. For instance, it may be indicated in the label that "Serving Size: 50 grams (or a cup)", and then under it, you will see other ingredients like the fat content, the calories, oil, protein, etc. This means that all those data listed corresponds only to ONE serving size of 50 grams, not the entire content of the pack. Many make the mistake of correlating a serving size with the whole contents.

About Calories

The caloric content indicated in a food label is important even if one is not dieting. One must realize that it states the content of a particular food on PER SERVING basis, and not for the total content, unless a pack is only for a single serving size. Calorie is the measure for energy and this becomes important to people who are trying to lose some extra weight or those who are maintaining their current weight. Different people have different daily calorie needs. To lose extra weight off the body, the key is eating less than the daily calorie requirement and incorporating exercise in the daily routine.

Serving Per Container

This is another very important information in a food label that everyone must watch out for. More than the calories, serving per container basically tells you how many servings a food package or a bottle of drink has. If a bag of chips says that it has 4 servings per container, and then listed 150 calories, then simply multiply 4 (servings) and 150 (no. of calories) and you get the total calorie number for the entire content in that container, which is 600 calories in this case. This gives you a total picture of what you are actually eating.

The Bad Guys: Transfat, Saturated Fat and Cholesterol

All these terms mean one thing: CAUTION. As much as possible eat less of foods that contain a listing of these ingredients, no matter how small pr harmless the figures might be. These elements are not good for the body so if you read on the label about these contents, eat less, or much better, avoid these foods.


Transfat or trans fatty acid are synthetic and unnatural man-made acids. Why are they bad for anyone? Transfat reduces your good cholesterol while increasing the bad cholesterol hence a people who ingest more of these synthetic acids are deemed prone to strokes, heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. Sometimes they are listed on labels as 'partially hydrogenated oils' so beware of this. Transfat is commonly found in fried and fat-laden foods like fries, cookies, biscuits, doughnuts, and shortenings. If you need 2000 calories per day as daily requirement, the American Heart Association recommended that to stay on the safe side, at least 2 grams only of those come from transfat. That's like saying zero intake.

Saturated Fat

Similarly, ingestion of saturated fat is linked to the development of cardiovascular diseases. Saturated fat is commonly found in animal food but also in plant oils such as coconut oil and palm kernel oil. Experts tell that saturated fat also increase the body's bad cholesterol to heart ailments and stroke. The intake of this kind of fat must be limited to not more than seven percent of of your daily caloric requirement.


Cholesterol refers to the waxy and fatty but naturally occurring substance in the human body. But you may also get them from the food you eat. There are good and bad cholesterols which one should veer away from as much as possible. Cholesterol-laden food helps one dangerously build bad cholesterol levels in the bloodstream and you would not want that. If one has too much of the cholesterol in the bloodstream, it sticks to the walls of the arteries turning into 'plaque' which further narrows down or can even block these passage ways for the blood. They key is to eat less of foods that list cholesterol as an ingredient. Be on the safer side, try to avoid them if you can.

Reading labels has increasingly become significant since most of the food found in the supermarket and groceries nowadays have all the different ingredients that can be good or bad for one's health. It is necessary that everyone is well-informed as to what to look out for. This way, anybody can weed out what deserves to be in your grocery basket the next time you head to the supermarket. For anyone who is into calorie counting as an element of their fitness regimen, reading labels is equally important to help achieve your goals much faster.


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