Since the evolution of the industry, we are increasingly witnessing a growing supply in the food market. Nowadays, there is a variety of identical foods, but from different brands and even the dietary areas in supermarkets that “say” they have the best options for weight loss, intolerances, etc.
In fact, some foods seem to be ideal for the diet, but they “hide” harmful health options on the label. For most people, and due to the complexity of the acronyms/denomination given to a particular ingredient, it seems that a degree is necessary to understand what food/ingredient we are going to ingest. Surely you've felt this frustration of looking at the label and not understanding anything!?
In this way, in order to have a balanced and healthy diet, it’s necessary to understand how to read labels to choose well. Here are some tips that will help you:
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1 - List of ingredients: this field must contain all the ingredients used in the manufacture of a food product. These must appear in descending order, and the first ingredients on the list must be the ones in the greatest quantity.
- Read the list of ingredients: this point is essential to be able to compare food products from different brands and know all the ingredients that are part of that food;
- Prefer foods in which the first ingredients are not sugar, fat, salt and all derivatives or other names for these components;
- Know how to identify other names of sugars: honey, molasses, sucrose, maltose, lactose, glucose, fructose and dextrose or invert sugar syrup.
2 - Nutritional information: this field must contain the nutritional and caloric information of the food product. This information is not mandatory, but due to greater food concern, most foods already have this information. In food products you will find, at least, the energy value, lipid (fat) content, carbohydrates and proteins. There may be more complete labels where you can also find the content of sugars, fatty acids, fibers, vitamins, minerals, among others. On a label, this nutritional information is normally expressed per 100ml or 100g of product.
- Energy value: amount of calories in the product (it can be per 100 ml, 100g or dose of product);
- Total Lipids, Carbohydrates and Proteins: amount of each of these nutrients (may be per 100 ml, 100g or dose of product);
Thus, you should choose foods with low fat content, namely saturated and trans; opt for foods that contain complex carbohydrates (higher in fiber) and low in sugar, as well as look at the amount of sodium present in the food.
3 - Additives and allergens: additives are represented by the letter E and three digits. Foods or potential components to cause food allergies must be included in the list of ingredients (e.g. gluten, soy,…)
4 - Expiry Date: always check the expiry date and the condition of the packaging.
Although you can often be more aware to some information on the label, it’s important to understand the main points (described above). This makes even more sense whenever we buy a food product for the first time.
By Adriana Martins, Nutricionista
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