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Reading Labels:Understanding Fiber, Fat, Carbohydrates, Etc

Since 1994, food manufacturers have required the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to include food labels on all packaged food items. Labels can be a tremendous help in controlling our diets-but only if we understand them. Here is a primer to use as you browse the labels in your panty and at the grocery:

Serving Size. The serving size is listed at the top of the label. This is an important part of meal planning and also where many people go wrong. To get the total number of carbs, calories, etc., in an item, simply multiply the listed units by the number of servings. You may be surprised at how many items you assume are only 1 serving that are actually 2 or 3. The smaller the item, the more likely you are to make mistakes.

Calories. Calories are the units of energy within a food item. When you eat, your body converts calories into energy, uses what it can, and then stores the rest in the form of fat. On labels, you'll find separate numbers for calories and calories from fat. The fat calorie number refers to the number of calories derived from fat. The higher this number, the more fat in the product. For example, a can of diced tomatoes may have 30 calories (units of energy) and 0 calories from fat, making this a product your body can use efficiently. However, a prepackaged children's snack may have 130 calories with 40 calories from fat, making the processed food item a less efficient source of body fuel.

Daily Percent Values (% DV). These tell you what portion of the recommended amounts of an item (fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, etc.) are in a single serving in comparison to how much you need for a full day. You should take this number in account when selecting items from the grocery shelf. For example, it you are going to buy a bottle of pasta sauce, and Brand A provides 11% DV of fat and Brand B provides 40% DV of fat, the best choice is Brand A. Be sure to look at the numbers in the context of all the others on the label. If brand A turns out to be heavy on the sodium, you should continue to shop, taking a look at Brand C and Brand D.

Fat, Sugar, Fiber, Sodium and Carbohydrates. These are the sections of the label that seem to draw the most attention from dieters. However, everyone should consider them important. If you have dietary food restrictions, high blood pressure, or diabetes, these numbers could mean the difference between remaining in good health and heading towards the danger zone. If you are on a low carb diet, you can monitor your protein intake by paying attention to the carbohydrate and sugar content. Likewise, those on a low fat diet will want to know the fat and fiber content.

The FDA provides information on what specific label terms are supposed to mean.

"No fat" or "fat free" means that the item contains less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving, "Sugar free" means that the item contains less than 1/2 gram of sugar per serving, and "Good source of fiber" indicates 2.5 g to 4.9 g. per serving. A full list can be obtained from the FDA website. You'll note that there is no definition for "low carb," so be particularly wary when this phrase is used.

Gavin Dye is author and webmaster at http://www.kitchen-equipment-4u.com, your online resource for cooking equipment and healthy recipes

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In The News:

NASA launched a spacecraft Tuesday night on a mission to smash into an asteroid and test whether it would be possible to knock a space rock off course if one were to threaten Earth. The DART spacecraft, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The federal government is embarking on a new attempt to explain the unexplainable.
NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, the world's first planetary defense test mission, is scheduled to launch early Wednesday morning.
The historic November 2021 partial lunar eclipse stunned viewers around the world on Thursday night.
A partial lunar eclipse will take place on Thursday night and into early Friday.
A prosthetic-tailed dolphin named Winter that starred in the "Dolphin Tale" movies died Thursday evening at a Florida aquarium despite life-saving efforts to treat a gastrointestinal abnormality, aquarium officials said.
Four astronauts returned to Earth on Monday, riding home with SpaceX to end a 200-day space station mission that began last spring.
If you don’t want to believe tech companies at face value, take your privacy into your own hands
A U.S. survey of astronomers puts the search for extraterrestrial life at the top of their to-do list for the next 10 years.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Hubble Space Telescope is in safe mode yet again.
Climate change may impact the production of corn (maize) and wheat as early as 2030, according to NASA researchers.
Humans introduced a new life form to outer space on Friday as NASA astronauts harvested the first ever chile peppers onboard the International Space Station.
The Northern Lights may be visible just in time for Halloween.
On Thursday, the sun released a significant solar flare toward Earth, peaking at 11:35 a.m. EDT, scientists say.
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The scale presented contains seven levels that NASA said are "reflective of the winding, complicated staircase of steps that would lead to scientists declaring they’ve found life beyond Earth."
The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance announced Thursday that two female critically endangered California condors had successfully hatched eggs without the help of male condors.
NASA is now targeting February 2022 for the launch of its powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
The U.S. military launched three suborbital rockets this week from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
As cooler temperatures move over the eastern U.S., the West is forecast to see heavy rain and mountain snow, including what's known as a "bomb cyclone" near the Northwest.

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