Have you ever looked at the front of a package and read the words “All-Natural” or “Heart-Healthy,” only to look at the ingredients list and find it is packed with salt, sugar, and chemicals you can’t even pronounce? The front of a food package has one purpose: to make you buy the product. It is not always fact-based and does not indicate the healthiness of the food inside. In order to know what you are truly buying, you need to understand how to read and properly interpret the ingredient list and nutrition information label on food packages.
How to Read Ingredient Labels
1. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it and don’t eat it.
2. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity, from highest to lowest proportions. That is, the first two or three ingredients are the majority of what the food contains.
3. Choose foods with less than five ingredients; this means they are minimally processed.
4. Avoid chemicals, preservatives, artificial flavors, and colors.
5. Avoid sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and trans fats.
What to Avoid
1. Hidden Sugar: Avoid foods with sugar listed in the first three ingredients, and be aware that “sugar” has many names, many of which add calories without boosting nutritional value, and others that can cause stomach distress and other symptoms.
2. Partially Hydrogenated Oils: Partially hydrogenated oils are the primary source of trans fats, which are extremely harmful to arteries. Look on the ingredients list. If a food contains partially hydrogenated oils, it contains trans fats.
3. Artificial Sweeteners: These actually increase your craving for sweets, are loaded with chemicals, and are often the source of bloating, diarrhea, and other symptoms.
4. Sodium Nitrite: Used as a preservative in meats, research indicates that sodium nitrate poses a cancer risk; another recent study suggested that nitrites and nitrates could interact with medications to damage DNA and increase the risk of cancer.
5. Artificial Coloring: Artificial coloring is found in cereals, candy, soda, snack food; particularly those designed for children. They are listed on the ingredients label by their color name, such as Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, Red 3, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, and Orange B.
6. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): MSG is a salty flavor added to food to enhance flavor MSG consumption can result in headaches, flushing, sweating, fluttering heartbeat, and shortness of breath.