The Most Important Part of the Nutrition Label

Healthy Recipes and Nutrition, Nutrition
on March 15, 2012

The block on the side of the food packages you buy is full of useful information. If you haven’t gotten into the habit of reading this label, you should start now. Every part of the nutrition label is important; however, limiting your fat, sodium and cholesterol intake are essential to monitor. The food label makes this goal easier to achieve. Understanding how to read this nutrition label and knowing what the most important parts of the nutrition label are will help you to make informed choices for you and your family.

Where to start. Start at the top. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the first thing you should check is the top part of the box. This section contains calories per serving. Do not just look at the number of calories noted. You must take the serving size into consideration for an accurate determination of what calories will be in your serving size. It is very common to see serving sizes that are much smaller than what is typically consumed. For example, an ice cream serving is often listed as one-half cup, but many people eat more than a single serving at a time. If you’re monitoring your fat intake, you will also find the number of calories from fat alone in a serving of that food item.

The top nutrient section. The center of the nutrition label contains nutrients that should be consumed in limited quantities — fat, cholesterol and sodium. Americans are either getting a sufficient amount of these nutrients or too much of these nutrients. It is important to view these numbers with the serving size in mind. According to the FDA, health experts recommend limiting the fat in your diet to as small a number as possible. Too much sodium and cholesterol can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure and even some cancers.

The lower nutrient section. Right beneath that section is the part of the box that contains the nutrients that should be consumed more often. The FDA reports that most Americans are not getting enough of these key nutrients — fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron. By striving to get the recommended daily intake of this section of the nutrition label, you may increase your health and reduce the risk of some conditions and diseases.

The footnote in the bottom section. While the first few sections of the nutrition label contain many important facts, do not ignore the footnote. This section will delve into detail about how the percentage of key nutrients should stack up in an ideal, healthy daily diet. The percent daily value is based on a 2,000- or 2,500-calorie-per-day diet. This amount of daily caloric intake may not be realistic for everyone. When considering the percentages daily value numbers, you should take your individual calorie needs into account. The first few nutrients — fat, cholesterol and sodium — are the upper limits recommendation. That means you should strive to eat less than the amount listed. The bottom nutrients in the footnote — carbohydrates and fiber — are the lower limit percentages. That means you should try to consume at least that amount of these nutrients, if not more.