Have you ever been at the grocery store wondering how healthy an item is but didn’t know how to read the label? These tips will help you become a nutrition label guru in no time.
% Daily Value
The % Daily Value is a measurement that shows how much of a single nutrient is in a serving. Looking at this value on the nutrition label is important to understand which foods are high or low in certain nutrients. A value of 5% DV or less is considered low and a value of 20% DV is considered higher. The nutrients we want to keep at 5% DV or less are sodium, added sugars and saturated fats.
Sodium is an important nutrient your body needs to function properly; however, too much sodium in the diet can put us at risk for high blood pressure, which may cause stroke and heart disease if left untreated. The recommended amount of sodium the average person needs is less than 2,300 mg per day, which is about one teaspoon. Even if you’re not adding salt to your food from a salt shaker, sodium in processed foods can add up quickly. When looking at the nutrition label, the % DV (% Daily Value) is your friend. 5% DV of sodium per serving is considered low sodium, whereas 20% DV or higher per serving is considered high sodium. Making sure you stay below 100% DV is a great start to reducing sodium in your diet.
Just like sodium, we can easily eat a lot of sugar, especially added sugars. Added sugars are sugars added to foods during processes and can be written on labels as dextrose, sucrose, corn syrup, etc. Other added sugars include honey, syrup, table sugar and concentrated fruit and vegetable juices. Any naturally occurring sugars, such as sugar in milk or fruit, are not considered added sugars. It’s important to limit the number of added sugars we consume, and it’s recommended less than 10% of our daily calories come from added sugars. For example, 10% of a 2,000-calorie diet is equal to 200 calories. Just like sodium, observing the % DV is an important tool when reading nutrition labels. 5% DV of added sugars is considered low, while 20% DV is considered high. Staying below 100% DV is a step in the right direction for reducing added sugars.
Saturated fats can raise your blood cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. Common foods that contain saturated fats include butter, cheese, red meats and sweets. The American Heart Association recommends individuals consume 5-6% or less calories from saturated fats. For example, 5% of a 2,000-calorie diet is around 100 calories. Making sure we look at the %DV on the nutrition label can help you keep your saturated fat intake to a minimum.
To learn more about the nutrition fact label, you can visit this resource: The New Nutrition Fact Label
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. The lows and highs of percent daily value on the label. https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/lows-and-highs-percent-daily-value-new-nutrition-facts-label. Published March 11, 2020. Accessed March 2, 2021.
Sodium in Your Diet. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/sodium-your-diet. Published April 2, 2020. Accessed March 2, 2021.
Added Sugars on the New Nutrition Facts Label. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/added-sugars-new-nutrition-facts-label. Published March 11, 2020. Accessed March 2, 2021.
Saturated Fat. www.heart.org. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats. Accessed March 2, 2021.
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. The New Nutrition Facts Label. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/new-nutrition-facts-label. Published June 29, 2020. Accessed March 2, 2021.