Bitesize Nutrition - Reading Nutritional Labels
Nutrition is a complex topic. To get even the most basic grasp, and to control over what we are putting into our bodies, we need to understand nutritional labels. In Western society we are bombarded with highly processed foods; and it is often quite surprising to learn exactly what we are putting into our bodies. There is a misperception that calories are the most important thing to look at when reading labels. This is wrong. Salt, sugar and fat are the three basics to fully understand, as these can contribute to health problems such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
It is important to know that, for adults, the recommended daily allowance (RDA):
- for salt is 6g per day.
- for sugar is 30g per day.
Tips to start reading nutritional labels
To get started and become more label aware, there are three initial things on a food label worth looking at.
These are: Fat, Carbohydrates of which sugars, and Salt.
When looking at total fat content a High fat food will have more than 17.5g per 100g and a Low-fat food will have less than 3g of fat per 100g.
Saturated fat is one to watch out for as eating too much of it can lead to a rise in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. A high LDL level leads to a build-up of cholesterol in your arteries. A high saturated fat will have more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g and a low saturated fat food will have lower than 1.5g per 100g.
Carbohydrate - of which Sugars
Sugar is a form of carbohydrate and so when looking at a nutritional label what you need to check is ‘carbohydrate of which sugars’. A high sugar food will have more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g on the label and A low sugar food will have 5g of total sugars or less per 100g.
Salt is a common concern in relation to blood pressure, heart problems and stroke. On a nutritional label a High salt food will have more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
and a low salt food will have 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium) .
Remember this is just a taster, if you would like to find out more about reading nutritional labels please follow the links in the further information section.
Further informationThe British Heart Foundation has published some extended guidance on reading labels.