Saturday, February 18, 2017

Reading The Nutrients Label

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No one asked, but I thought I'd talk about the Nutrition Label that you see on packaging and some related stuff.  The image above does a fairly decent job of explaining things, but what ARE these things?  I'll just go from top to bottom and I'm going to reference the next two images.
Mac & Cheese

Serving Size - Each item you pick up that has a Nutrition Facts label will have a serving size.  You might consume a drink that is technically supposed to be 2 servings.  A box of macaroni and cheese, while yes you can eat the whole thing, is technically meant for 4 people (at 310 calories a serving, a whole box of Kraft Mac & Cheese is 1240 calories).

Servings Per Container - This is how many servings you are supposed to get out of the food item you are consuming.

Calories - In the UK, they have this labeled as "Energy".  Calories indicate the amount the energy needed for the body to burn the food.  Think of food as types of energy.  Mac & Cheese is a low quality fuel.  It takes a 310 calories to burn 3.5oz (according to the nutrition label), while 1 cup (8 oz) of broccoli only takes 30 calories to burn.  In order to burn calories, you have to expend that energy (by moving like with exercise).  The next few items are a general breakdown of the calories.

Daily Percentages - The daily percentage is always based on a 2000 calorie daily diet.  If you do not eat a 2000 calorie daily diet, it does not apply to you.

Total Fat - There are a few different types of fats out there and not all fats are bad.  Unsaturated Fat is generally broken into monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fat.  Saturated Fat, usually found in animals fats (such as cream, dairy products, fatty meats, lard), some vegetable oils (coconut oil and palm kernel oil), and some prepared foods (pizza, dairy desserts, sausage).  Monounsaturated fat is typically found in red meat, whole milk items, nuts, and fatty fruits like avocado and olives.  Polyunsaturated fat is typically found in nuts, seeds, fish, algae, leafy greens, and krill.  Trans fat are not usually found in nature (it's very minimal) and are essentially a man-made fat.  They increase a number of health risks and should absolutely be avoided.

Fat isn't all bad.  It is a source of energy for the body, but the body will store what it doesn't currently need (as in the case of eating too much fat).

Cholesterol - Cholesterol affects cells, natural steroid hormones, and bile acids.  Cholesterol is separated into LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) on blood tests.  You can think of LDL as purposeful grease for your arteries and cells, while HDL is the crud that ends up mucking things up.  Cholesterol helps to move fat around the body, so you need some cholesterol - just like you need some fat.

Sodium - Dietary sodium is used to regular pH in the body, blood pressure, blood volume, and something called osmotic equilibrium.  It's generally thought that 2300 mg of sodium should be the limit for an adult per day; 1500 mg is the limit for adults with high blood pressure.  Too much sodium can result in high blood pressure, off-balanced pH, hypertension, and other problems.

Carbohydrates - Like everything else, there are good carbs and bad carbs.  Carbohydrates are another source of energy for the body.  It includes sugars, starches, and fiber.  Low-carb diets (like Paleo and Atkins) typically restrict the amount of carbs and the "high sugar and/or high starch" carbs, relying more on Fats and Proteins for energy.  Simple carbohydrates are easily broken down for immediate energy and are found in fruit, milk items, sugar, processed foods, and vegetables.  Complex carbohydrates are found in starchy vegetables, grains and grain items (bread and pasta), and legumes.  Low-carb diets generally allow you to have some fruit, vegetables, and limited milk items; sometimes some starchy vegetables are allowed in moderation.  Fiber is often the misunderstood carb.  Fiber helps you out by helping to lower cholesterol, normalize bowel movements, maintain bowel health, lower blood pressure, and with weight loss.  The Mayo Clinic recommends adult men to have 38 g daily and women to have 25 g daily.  It won't make you run to the bathroom, but when you have to poop you will definitely poop.  Some folks think that's gross, but seriously, do you want to hang on to that poop?  That's really gross.

Protein - Protein is how we get standard and essential amino acids.  This is how the body gets nitrogen, which our body needs.  It goes towards building muscle, forming hormones, antibodies, forming hemoglobin, etc.  Meat is generally where you find protein, but you can also find protein in legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Vitamins and Minerals - These are written almost as a footnote.  You will have to do your own research on this since there are so many vitamins and minerals out there.

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