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Ag's Cool Nutrition

Understanding food labels

Sample Food Label

In order to plan a healthy diet, we must know how to read a food label. Food labels show us if a food has a little or a lot of certain nutrients. Look on the side of a product to find the Nutrition Facts title.

You will find the serving size of the food below the nutrition facts title. Similar food products have similar serving sizes. The servings per container are also included to let you compare what you actually eat with the serving size on that product. So remember, if the serving size is 1 cup and you eat 2 cups, then you will need to double the numbers on the label.

% Daily values are listed to give you an idea of how one serving of a product contributes nutritionally to a 2000 calorie diet. Use the % daily values to see if a food has a little or a lot of a nutrient.

The amount of calories in one serving of the product is listed. Only a few nutrients are listed on the Nutrition Facts label-those that relate to today's most important health issues.
The label lists total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium because people eat too much of these.

Fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron are listed because people do not eat enough of these everyday. You should try to eat at least 100% of the daily value of each of these everyday.

Fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, total carbohydrate, fiber, sugars, protein, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron are required on the label. Other nutrients may be listed if the company would like to list them.

What are nutrients?

Nutrients are substances found in food that are needed for good health. Your body can't make nutrients, so they must be supplied by food. During digestion, food is broken down into nutrients, which are absorbed into your bloodstream and carried to every cell in your body. More than 40 nutrients in food are classified into six groups: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. Each nutrient has a specific function and they all work together for your good health.

Carbohydrates- are the body's main source of energy or calories. Carbohydrates are classified in two groups: complex carbohydrates (starches) and sugars. Fiber, which is another carbohydrate, aids digestion and helps fight some diseases but is not a nutrient because it is not digested and absorbed by the body.

Protein- supplies energy and amino acids. Amino acids are building blocks that build, repair, and maintain every cell in your body.

Fats- also supply energy but they have many other functions. Fats transport nutrients and they are a part of many body cells. Fats provide storage and insulation for your body. Carbohydrates and proteins that are not needed for energy are stored as fat.

Vitamins- trigger many different body processes. These compounds are needed in very small amounts in the diet to regulate chemical reactions in the body. Each vitamin has a specific job in your body, so one vitamin can't replace another. Vitamins do not provide energy but they help our bodies use the energy from foods.

Minerals- are like vitamins and are used in the body to promote chemical reactions and form body structures.

Water- is a part of every cell and tissue in the body. Water carries nutrients to cells and removes wastes products. Water is also needed to help regulate body temperature. Water makes up 55-75% of your body weight.