Five Nutrition Label Red Flags

Americans today eat more and weigh more than they did fifty years ago. Most people eat several hundred more calories daily than they did in the 1950’s. Most of these extra calories come from grains, added sugars and fats. The result? About a third of all United States citizens weigh at least thirty more pounds than they should. As we get closer to launching our new concept True Health Vending, we have been paying careful attention to how misleading Nutrition Labels can be. One way to tighten your belt buckle a couple of notches is to pay more attention to the Nutrition Facts label on the foods that you eat. Here are five red flags to watch for.

  1. More Than 400 Calories

Start at the top of the label. That is where you find not only the calories per serving but also the amount of servings themselves. Age, sex and gender all make a difference in how many calories we each need daily. However 2,000 calories is often used as a benchmark for most of us. Based on that number 400 is high for one food. It is especially high if there are more than one serving of that food in the container.

2. Total Fat Higher Than 20%

Total fats are just next to the calories on our labels and “Percent Daily Value” is just next to it. Total fat more than 20% is high, especially high if you have heart problems or a family history of heart disease. There are some exceptions as not all fats, such as olive oil, are bad for your heart but generally it is a good rule of thumb to try and stay under 20%

3. Any trans fat

The easiest Red Flag of all. We should not eat any trans fat. This is because it is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. Trans fats are common in snack foods and prepared baked goods. They are a double negative for your heart as they lower good cholesterol and raise bad cholesterol. The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) have given food makers a 2018 deadline to stop adding trans fats to processed foods. Until than, if you see “trans fat” or “hydrogenated vegetable oil” anywhere on the label, put the food back!

4. No Fiber

Eating foods that have very little or no fiber just isn’t good for you, especially if you have diabetes or heart disease. A food is high in fiber if it contains more than 5 grams per serving. Fiber is best found in fruits and vegetables

5. Added Sugar

Added sugar is the biggest reason why so many of us are overweight. You can check this important nutrition fact right underneath Total Sugars on a label. However you may have to dig deeper into the ingredient list as high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maltose, dextrose and sucrose are all ingredients that add Sugar.

Nutritional labels can be very misleading and confusing. Please be sure to do your due diligence and consult all labels.

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How Our Bodies Turn Food into Energy

All parts of the body (muscles, brain, heart and liver) need energy to work. This energy comes from the food we eat. Our bodies digest the food we eat by mixing it with fluids (acids and enzymes) in the stomach. When the stomach digests food, the carbohydrates (sugars and starches) in the food break down into another type of sugar called glucose. The stomach and small intestines absorb the glucose and then release it into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, glucose can be used immediately for energy or stored in our bodies to be used later. However, our bodies need insulin in order to use or store glucose for energy. Without insulin, glucose stays in the bloodstream, keeping blood-sugar levels high.

Insulin is a hormone made by beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells are very sensitive to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Normally beta cells check the blood’s glucose level every few seconds and sense when they need to increase or decrease the amount of insulin they’re making and releasing. When someone eats something high in carbohydrates, like a piece of bread, the glucose level in the blood rises and the beta cells trigger the pancreas to release more insulin into the bloodstream.

The rise and fall in insulin and blood sugar happens many times during the day and night. The amount of glucose and insulin in our bloodstream depends on when we eat and how much. When the body is working as it should, it can keep blood sugar at a normal level, which is between 70 and 120 milligrams per deciliter. However, even in people without diabetes, blood sugar levels can reach 180 during or right after a meal. Within two hours after eating, blood sugar levels should drop to under 140. After several hours without eating, blood sugar can drop as low as 70.

Using glucose for energy and keeping it balanced with just the right amount of insulin — not too much and not too little — is the way our bodies maintain the energy needed to stay alive, work, play and function even as we sleep. Foods with a low glycemic index (or GI) that provide such key nutrients as calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, C and E are the most important foods to help keep up your insulin. These foods include dark green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale, which are very low in calories and carbohydrates; citrus fruits, such as grapefruits and oranges, which are high in soluble fiber and vitamin C; berries, like blueberries and strawberries, which are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and fiber; tomatoes, which are high in iron and vitamins C and E; and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and nuts. An ounce of nuts can go a long way in providing key healthy fats along with hunger management.

  • Do you regularly eat many of these foods?
  • What foods are we missing from this list?

Give us your feedback. It is always appreciated.


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