For most of us, all these abbreviations and complex words on the food labels have no sense. And there is usually no time to figure it out being in the store. However, this is really important knowledge that will greatly facilitate your search for healthy food, as well as save money. This means that it will improve the quality of nutrition and life in general.
Why to read food labels?
Every person should do it to be healthy. The phrase “We are what we eat” is as old as the world, and everyone is tired of it, but it’s true. After carefully studying the label, you can choose a more natural product.
For example, this way you can understand whether it contains trans fats. As a rule, manufacturers do not write about this on the front side of the food labels. But on the back they write, however, in a veiled way.
What terms should alert you? “Hydrogenated” and “modified” fats or “hydrogenated fats and oils”. The World Health Organization calls for limiting the use of trans fats in food, as they increase the risks of cardiovascular diseases.
You can also find out from the food label whether the products contain sugar. According to statistics, a human eats almost 100 grams of sugar a day. Where did so much come from? It’s just that there is sugar not only in sweets and cakes, but almost everywhere. In semi-finished products, canned food, sauces, quick breakfasts. By the way, often on the label the word “sugar” is hidden under other terms: fructose, dextrose, lactose, glucose and even “fruit concentrate”. If some of this is in the top three ingredients, it is better not to buy such a product.
To save money. Often manufacturers make money on their name by wrapping the most ordinary product in a beautiful package. Such products are more expensive, and its composition is the same as that of an analog standing next to it on a shelf in a nondescript box.
Phrases like “strengthens the immune system” or “does not contain GMOs” are also not worth buying. As a rule, these are marketing tricks and an attempt to increase the attractiveness (and cost) of the product in the eyes of consumers.
What the food labels say?
In fact, the label is the “passport” of the product. When and where it was “born”, who participated in its creation, what it consists of, how many useful or not very substances it contains. All this is encrypted by the manufacturer and you only need to be able to unravel the cipher.
If the manufacturer does not comply with these requirements, this indicates either the lack of professionalism of technologists, or a deliberate attempt to mislead the consumer.
You can get lost in the information on the label. That’s what you need to pay attention to first of all:
It’s not the same as the name. The name is used for marketing purposes and it does not always reflect the composition of the product. For example, “Royal Caviar” is not real caviar, but its cheap counterpart. It is made from jelly obtained from seaweed. Butter may turn out to be a spread, and cottage cheese may turn out to be a curd product. All this is always indicated on the packaging, just in much smaller letters and in an unobvious place — on the edge and away from the eyes.
Remember: the ingredients are always listed in descending order. That is, in the first place is what is most contained. For example, in the composition of sausages, meat should be in the first place, not soy.
Further additional ingredients are indicated. They give the product the desired texture, enhance the taste and prolong the shelf life. As a rule, it is a thickener (for example, gelatin or starch), emulsifiers (soy lecithin or egg powder), preservatives (often salt and sugar), flavors and dyes. All of them can be natural and synthetic. Synthetic is not equally harmful.
The letter “E” in the composition of the product, which is used to terrify, is actually not so disgusting. The presence of such labeling indicates that the substance has been tested for quality and safety and can be used in the prescribed dosage. Among them there are natural supplements. For example, E 406 is agar—agar (E 406), which is obtained from algae. And E 440 is pectin produced from fruits. To make it easier for you to navigate what is what, here is the transcript. If the numeric code starts with one, it is a food coloring. With twos — preservatives, threes — antioxidants. 4 are stabilizers, 5 are emulsifiers, and 6 are flavor and aroma enhancers.
The expiration date is always indicated with a margin. So theoretically, bread that is overdue for 1 day can be safely eaten if it visually looks normal. But it is better to meet the specified deadlines. It is also important to understand that the product must be stored properly, otherwise the shelf life may be shortened. You can read about how to properly store various products in this material.
In most cases, those products that are least processed deteriorate faster. You can increase the shelf life either with the help of preservatives or by ultra-processing. With ultra-processing, those substances that can provoke the reproduction of bacteria are removed from the products. For example, probiotics or unsaturated fatty acids. And with these substances, part of the healty substances inevitably goes away. You can eat such products, but other things being equal, it is better to give preference to alternatives with a shorter shelf life. What belongs to ultra-processed foods? Chips, instant noodles, sweet soda, chocolate bars.
In the West, labeling requirements are stricter, so in addition to the standard ratio, the amount of salt, sugar, fiber and different types of fats is indicated there. We have such details prescribed on a voluntary basis.
The caloric content or energy value of a product is the amount of energy that is released during its assimilation. And this is what they pay attention to first of all. In addition to caloric content, the label shows the amount of macronutrients: proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Most often, the values are indicated per 100 g of product, but sometimes per serving. It happens with breakfast cereals. Therefore, be sure to see how many grams per serving should be, according to the manufacturer, and how many you have. Depending on this, you can calculate the calorie content of the dish.
If vitamins or minerals have been added to the product, they must be listed on the label.
Firstly, in accordance with the Customs Union regulations, a symbol must be indicated on the container that comes into contact with the food product that the material is non-toxic and can be used for food packaging.
Secondly, marking with a mobius strip is mandatory. You will need this information if you are sorting garbage and handing over packaging for recycling. Find the number in the triangle (loop) on the label. A digit is an identification code that determines the hypothetical possibility of packaging disposal. Unfortunately, the presence of such a code does not mean that the container can definitely be handed over to the recycling collection point. There are non-recyclable types of plastic.
What can be done in this situation? Choose products in recyclable packaging or, if possible, without it. For example, do not buy vegetables on a substrate. It is made of expanded polystyrene, code 6. Buy vegetables without packaging and put them in your bag. Take the eggs in a cardboard tray, not a plastic one.
Tags: foods, healthy diet, nutrition, proper nutrition