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Nutrition Facts Label: How To Guide
February 11, 2013
The FDA decides everything that will be visible on a nutrition label - what it contains, how it is presented, and what information is not available.

Serving Size: All appropriate serving sizes have been set by the FDA; all information that is shown on a nutrition label pertains to the serving size of the food shown (for example, 1 cup on this label contains 80 calories).

Calories: Calories are a summation of the amount of calories coming from fat, carbohydrates, and protein in a food. (1 g CHO = 4 cal; 1 g Pro = 4 cal; 1 g fat = 9 cal; 1 g alcohol = 7 cal).

Calories from fat: This shows how many calories are coming just from the fat in the food. To obtain the percentage of calories from fat, divide calories from fat by total calories. In this case, there is 0 fat in the food, so 0% of the calories are coming from fat.

Total fat: Total fat consists of 4 subtypes: saturated fats, trans fat, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats.

Saturated Fat: This fat is associated with high blood cholesterol, dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular disease. If there is less than 1/2 gram per serving of sat. fat. In a food, it can be rounded to 0 on the nutrition facts label.

Trans Fat: This is a fat that is associated with raising your LDL cholesterol ("bad") and lowering levels of HDL cholesterol ("good"). Trans fat is linked with coronary artery disease (CAD), cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes.

Cholesterol: All foods containing animal fat will contain cholesterol. This is associated with hypercholesterolemia. If the item contains less than 2 mg/serving of cholesterol, this value can be rounded down to 0 on the nutrition label.

Sodium: High levels of sodium are found in most processed, pre-packaged foods, condiments, cured meats, salt, soy sauce, and cheeses. Too high levels of sodium in the diet are associated with hypertension and edema. Some people are very salt sensitive while others will not have any effects from sodium.

Total Carbohydrates (CHO): Total CHO contain 3 categories: simple carbohydrates (sugar); complex carbohydrates (starches); fiber.

Dietary Fiber: Fibers are not digested by enzymes in our intestines. Fiber is found in food with a plant origin and provides bulk to our diets; Fiber keeps you feeling more full for longer!

Sugar: Sugar can be naturally occurring or refined. Fructose like in fruit and juices, or lactose in milk, are naturally occurring sugars, while refined sugars like things like table sugar (sucrose) or corn syrup. FDA does not currently have a daily value for the amount of sugar in one's diet. If there is less than 1/2 gram of sugar/serving, then the label can read 0.

Protein: Protein is the building block of our bodies - it helps to obtain muscle and keeps one satiated (feeling full more full) longer.

Vitamins and Minerals: These numbers list the percentage of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of these nutrients (Vitamin C, D, A, Potassium, Calcium, etc.)

Common Nutrition Terms on Labels

Fat Free: Product has less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving

99% fat free: Every 100 grams of food will have 1 gram or less of fat

Low Fat: Product has less than or equal to 3 grams of fat per serving.

Lite (Light): Product has 33% fewer calories or 50% less fat per serving than the comparable product.

Lean: For meat and poultry only. Per serving, the food contains less than 10 grams of fat, less than 4 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol.

Low Calorie: 40 calories or less per serving.

Trans Fat Free: Food contains less than 0.5 grams trans fat per serving. This value will be 0.

Cholesterol Free: Product has 2 mg or less of cholesterol per serving.

Low Cholesterol: Product has less than or equal to 20 mg cholesterol per serving, or 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving.

Sodium Free: Food contains less than 5 mg per serving of sodium, label will say 0.

Very Low Sodium: 35 mg or less of sodium per serving.

Low Sodium: 140 mg or less per serving.

Good Source: Used for fiber, protein, vitamins, or minerals. Product will contain at least 10% of the Daily Value of that particular nutrient.

High in or Excellent Source: Used for fiber, protein, vitamins, or minerals. Will have at least 20% of the DV for the nutrient.


DISCLAIMER: This is for informational purposes only. If you have a concern about your health, please consult a physician or other health care professional.