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Deciphering Food Labels

Posted by Blooms The Chemist on 3 Dec 2020

Deciphering Food Labels


With all the numbers and long convoluted words, it’s quite easy to get confused about what the labels on our food products say. While sugar is an obvious one to look out for, there are also other factors that need to be considered if you want to make the most out of your nutrition.

Fibre

Not all food labels need to contain fibre, but when choosing products that claim to be high in fibre, pick ones that have more than 3g of dietary fibre per 100g.

Sugars

According to research there are 61 different names for sugar but the most common names you’ll find include, sucrose, fruit juice concentrate and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). While avoiding sugar all at once can be hard, try to choose products which have limited amounts. The recommended amount is less than 15g per 100g.[1]

Fat

Total fat includes all the different types of fats found in the product, including saturated and unsaturated fats and trans fats. Out of the three, you should concentrate on eating mainly unsaturated fats as they help reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease. Foods that are high in unsaturated fats include avocados, fish, nuts, soybeans and flaxseed. In general, its best to choose products with less than 10g per 100g.

Salt

Too much salt can increase your risk of high blood pressure and may lead to heart disease. Foods that are notorious for containing high levels of sodium include pizza and pasta dishes, breakfast cereals, breads and processed meats. When looking at a food label, it’s best to pass on products that contain more than 400mg of sodium per 100g, with less than 120g per 100g being ideal.

Ingredients List

Ingredient lists are organized so the first ingredient has the highest weight while the end ingredient is the smallest. There are often a variety of names that sugar, fat and salt can come under, so it’s wise to know which ones to look out for. For example, if the word ends in ‘ose’ then it’s a form of sugar and if you come across ‘hydrogenated oils’ then it’s just another form of trans fats that you should aim to avoid. 

[1] https://www.bupa.com.au/health-and-wellness/health-information/healthy-living/nutrition/eating/sugar