Shari Duncan

Tag: Food Label

Get to Know the Foods you Eat.
Shari

by on Feb.26, 2012, under General Nutrition

The ingredient list is a quick way of judging a food product and is fairly straight forward, or is it?

If we are what we eat, then the ingredient list on the foods we consume may just give us pause.  It would be ideal  if we could all eat fresh, farm raised local foods and produce all the time, but the reality is that most of our pantries and refrigerators are stocked with cans, jars, bottles and boxes.

Therefore it is important to carefully read the ingredient list on any foods that are not wrapped in natures packaging.  Ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance so therefore, the first 2-3 ingredients are the ones that matter most.. so the top 3 ingredients are what you are primarily eating. Ingredients at the bottom of the list may appear in only very tiny amounts.

BUT: Be cautious because often packaging can be misleading.

A product claiming to contain whole grains may in fact contain more sugar than whole grains. (Consider breakfast cereals). One of the most common tricks food manufacturers use is to distribute sugars among many ingredients so that sugars don’t appear in the top three. For example, a manufacturer may use a combination of sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, brown sugar, dextrose and other sugar ingredients to make sure none of them are present in large enough quantities to attain a top position on the ingredient list.

Some foods are laced with dozens of ingredients with complicated names that sound like they belong in a chemistry lab, not on your plate.   If the ingredients list

How well do you know the foods in your Pantry?

contains long, chemical-sounding words that you can’t pronounce, avoid that item. Why would you want to eat them? Stick with ingredients you recognize.  Look for words like “sprouted” or “raw” to indicate higher-quality natural foods. Sprouted grains and seeds are far healthier than non-sprouted. Raw ingredients are generally healthier than processed or cooked. Whole grains are healthier than “enriched” grains.

Don’t be fooled by the word “wheat” when it comes to flour. All flour derived from wheat can be called “wheat flour,” even if it is processed, bleached and stripped of its nutrition. Only “whole grain wheat flour” is a healthful form of wheat flour. Especially for breakfast cereals, crackers, pasta, and breads, the word “whole” should appear as the first or second ingredient, whether whole wheat, oats, rye, or another grain. One way to double-check is to look at the fiber content on the nutrition facts panel. Whole-grain foods should deliver at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and ideally even more.

Partially hydrogenated oils are the primary source of trans fats, which have been shown to be potentially more harmful to arteries than saturated fat. Foods can call themselves “trans-fat free” even if they contain up to half a gram of trans fats per serving. Look on the ingredients list. If a food contains partially hydrogenated oils, it contains trans fats.  The American Heart Association recommends choosing vegetable oils and margarines with liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient and no more than 2 grams of  saturated fat per tablespoon, such as tub margarines, canola, corn, safflower, soybean, sunflower, and olive oils.

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