Yesterday, in Part One of the article I talked about macro and micronutrients. In this part of the article I’m going to be sticking with this theme and talking about which macro and micronutrients you should be keeping an eye out for on your weekly food shop.

Nutrients to look for

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The nutrients you should look at on the Nutrition Facts label are fiber, protein and the micronutrients listed. Fiber is found on the label just below ‘Carbohydrates.’ Fiber is a form of “roughage” in food that helps to keep our digestive system healthy. As a rule of thumb, consider the fiber content to be “good” if there are 3g or more per serving. Protein is the most satiating (AKA “filling”) of the macronutrients.

The main thing to consider

When choosing a food high in quality protein you need to consider if it is from a “lean” source (from a source lower in fat). As mentioned in Part 1, only a few of the many micronutrients are required to be listed on the label. This is unfortunate because these nutrients make a huge difference to our overall health. You can outsmart the label by focusing on foods such a fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources to be sure you’re getting the highest amount of micronutrients. Since we started with the chips example, let’s continue with it as we analyze the fiber, protein and micronutrients found inside. A typical serving of chips might have 1-3g of fiber per serving and 1-2g protein per serving. Neither of these values provides much, especially since these are nutrients we want to emphasize! The same goes for the micronutrients; there will be very low percentages listed here, which means there is not much in the way of micronutrients in a serving of chips.

Nutrients to limit

In a general sense, nutrients you should limit on the Nutrition Label are: total fat (saturated and trans fats), sodium, cholesterol and sugar. While each of these nutrients has a function in your body, the excess of each of them can be harmful to your health. For these nutrients, it’s simpler to recommend a maximum amount to consume over the course of your day. Saturated fat consumption should be less than 13g per day. understanding nutrition_2So be mindful of the foods you choose and their saturated fat content per serving. Trans fats should be limited to as little as possible. In general, if trans fat has 0.5g or above, you should think twice about consuming that food. Sodium should be limited to less than 1,500mg per day. You might be surprised by some food’s sodium content when you start paying attention to this nutrient on the label. Cholesterol is actually a nutrient our body produces naturally, so we don’t need to get it from food and consuming too much cholesterol (more than 300mg per day) can also be harmful to your health.

The ingredients list

The last – and yet fiercely important – piece to your label analysis and nutrition understanding! This one isn’t as cut and dry, and it’ll also take some practice with reading and checking. The first rule of thumb is this: the shorter the ingredient list, the better and more wholesome the food typically is for you. The second rule of thumb: if you can pronounce the ingredients and they don’t sound like crazy, chemically altered ingredients, the better.

Practice makes perfect

While there is a lot of information that goes into reading and understanding nutrition given in a Nutrition Facts label, this rule always applies: practice makes perfect. The more you check out the labels on your food, the better you’ll get at scanning for the “good” and the “bad” and the wiser you’ll become at choosing foods that will only improve the health of you and your family. If you’d like to discuss specific foods or more details about interpreting the Nutrition Facts label, I would love to chat more with you! Contact me anytime! Connect with Expert Maggie Binkley

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