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Decoding Food Labels

Decoding Food Labels

  • Food products today, go beyond just listing ingredients. Ever wondered what labels such as ‘low calorie’ or ‘low fat’ mean?

Today, the population is making a steady shift towards eating clean and healthy. We are conscious about the nutrition value in the food we eat. Speaking of which, we tend to buy products which are low on sugar and fats. Although, food companies are going to great lengths to mention every possible ingredient in their product, there still remains a grey area. What do these commonly used terms really mean?

When the label reads ‘No Added Sugar’

‘No added sugar’ doesn’t imply that it has no sugar. Many products, such as fruit juices are naturally high in sugar, and that’s why they don’t require extra sugar, anyway. If not that, then artificial sweeteners may have also been used. It is better to not fall for this trap. Simply flip the product and glance over the nutritional values instead. Manufacturers use the term ‘sugar-free’ if the product has less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving.  

Fresh and organic produce | Image: File Image
What is 100% Organic?

The word organic has to do with how the food is produced, and not its nutritional value. For your food to be 100 percent organic it should check all the boxes – prohibiting synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, and growth hormones. Also, only organic fertilizers such as compost and green manure should be used. Only then it is labeled ‘100% Organic’. If the food has 95 percent organic ingredients, it is labeled ‘Organic’. ‘Made With Organic Ingredients’ is when it is made from 70 percent organic ingredients with the remaining 30 percent including GMOs (genetically modified organisms).   

‘Gluten-Free’ Foods

‘Gluten’ is something which is found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. It is essentially for people who have gluten-intolerance, wheat allergy or the celiac disease. These conditions are easily triggered. Hence, utmost care should be taken even while preparing gluten-free food, as they should not be cross-contaminated with gluten-containing foods. Look out for labels such as ‘Naturally Gluten-free Food’ or ‘A prepared food that doesn’t have a gluten-containing ingredient’. For the general population, however, there is little clinical evidence about the health benefits of a gluten-free diet. 

See Also

The calorie game | Image: File Image

Low Fat, Low Calorie And The Like

If we go by the book, a food product is considered ‘low fat’ when it has less than three grams of fat per 100 g of food. ‘Fat-Free’ food has to be less than 0.5 grams of total fat per serving, and ‘Saturated Fat-Free’ is when the food has less than 0.5 grams saturated fat per serving and no more than 0.5 grams of trans fatty acids.

‘Low calorie’ food means 40 calories or less per serving. ‘Light’ or ‘Lite’ is when the food has one-third fewer calories – 50 percent less fat, or 50 percent less sodium compared to its regular version. And ‘Calorie-Free’ is food that has less than 5 calories per serving.

Multigrain V/S Whole Grains

‘Multigrain’ as the name suggests, contains more than one type of grain. It is usually made by adding more grains to white flour.

‘Whole Grains’ implies that all parts of the grain kernel – the bran, germ, and endosperm – are used. They contain more fiber, nutrients, and healthy plant components. Whole wheat or whole grain food items are healthier than multigrain in general.

So, did this decoding help you better understand the labels?

Read more: A Global Summit On Sustainability by Sankalp

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