One of the best ways to become in tune with your health is to understand the complexities of food labels. The makers of ingredient labels try to entice you with descriptions on the front of packages claiming their product is full of whole grains, low in sodium, trans fat, and/or cholesterol. How do you know if this is true? Let me help you navigate your way to better health with a few tips.
Here are some hints/guidelines for the next time you are at the supermarket and wondering if the product you are looking at is a good choice.
- In the ingredient list, avoid any words that contain hydrogenation, such as partially hydrogenated soybean oil. When a product has hydrogenation, it’s a hidden meaning for trans fat. The next time you are at the store take a look at a package of crackers. You will most likely see this ingredient in the list, but does the label say it contains trans fat? If a product has less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving, the manufacturer is able to put 0 grams on the label. However, you are still consuming the trans fat.
- High fructose corn syrup or just corn syrup would be the next ingredient to be on the lookout for. Since this popular sweetener is cheaper to use and helps extend a product’s shelf life, it has found its way into many processed foods, drinks, and sodas. Research hasn’t been conclusive in determining its effect on obesity and diabetes, but it would be best to avoid this processed ingredient.
- The next ingredient I would advise you to be aware of is preservatives including artificial flavors, monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, sulfites, nitrites, and dyes (red 40, blue 1, yellow number 5, etc). These artificial colors are used to bring out the colors of the food either naturally or synthetically, which may be used to impart taste and odor, to compensate for flavor loss, trendiness or nostalgia. Food products with these may be safe in small amounts, although they can be toxic in large amounts. How many food products contain these different chemicals or many other ones? Consuming foods with these ingredients once in a while may not pose any problems, however, overtime these toxins build up in your system leading to health problems.
For further information on understanding a food label, check out this website from the Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nutrition-facts/NU00293