Monday, October 26, 2009

What's In a Label?

Sorry I have been out of touch…I got some of the crud that’s going around and had to take it easy and recover. While I was sick, I found myself reading labels on my over the counter medications: what was the dosage, how much of what ingredient was in a tablet, how often to take them, any side effects that are possible, you get the idea.

I know most of us don’t give food labels this much attention, but perhaps it’s something we should consider. A food label can provide a considerable amount of information, which comes into play with a healthy lifestyle and weight loss.
First, it tells you how many calories are in a serving, and where those calories come from. It’s all a basic math equation, believe it or not. One gram of carbohydrate equals 4 calories, same for protein and one gram of fat is 9 calories. So, you can see how much energy the food will give you.

Next, what type of energy is it providing? Are the carbohydrates simple (sugary) or complex (think fibrous)? What percentage is the fat content? The answers to these questions are found in the label and the list of ingredients. If you look at the saturated fat content, it tells you the ratio of unhealthy to healthy fats. How much fiber is included in the carbohydrates? By reading the ingredient list, which are listed in descending order, keep an eye out for words that end in “-ose” such as fructose, lactose, sucralose, etc. These are all forms of sugar.

Here’s a little experiment you can do the next time you are in the grocery store: go to the canned fruit aisle. Take a fruit (fruit cocktail or peaches work great) and compare calories and ingredients between those in heavy syrup, light syrup and 100% juice.

Now, I don’t want everyone thinking that foods are horrible if they have a high fat content or some sugars in the ingredients. Balance and moderation is the key. Think of calories like the different grades of gasoline at the pump. If your body calls for premium grade gasoline (or nutrient rich, balanced foods), it functions best on that premium grade. You can choose the low (junk food) or mid grade, but you may not get the best performance and could feel sluggish.

Keep an eye on the labels and watch the scale and your mood change!!