Understanding food labels

Food labels are normally found on the back of a product and are split into two sections, the ingredients and the nutritional information. Understanding what these labels mean and what is in products will help you make good choices when you are eating and to understand what you are consuming.

Nutritional information

 This part of the label will list the nutritional values per 100 grams and per serving. It is important to read how many servings are in the container/packet to understand how much you should eat.

For example, a cake may have its nutritional breakdown as 8 servings, but you might split the cake into 4 servings if you don’t read the label. That means you will consume twice the recommended serving size.

This is the same for drinks, and in particular fruit juices. For example, the orange juice that you buy with a meal deal comes in a 250ml bottle, but a serving size is actually 150ml. This is where it becomes easy to consume additional calories without realising.

The important parts of nutritional information label are:

Kcal – the number of calories in total. This is calculated by adding the calories provided by the macro nutrients together.
Protein – how many grams of protein it contains. 1gram = 4Kcal
Carbohydrate – how many grams of carbohydrate. 1 gram = 4Kcal
Fat – how many grams of fat. 1gram = 9Kcal

Ingredients

The list of ingredients is usually found on the back or the side of a packet and is ordered by weight, with the heaviest ingredients coming first. It’s important to read these lists as often food will be packaged as healthy but contain only small amounts of the healthier ingredients.

On the Ultra Nutrition ingredients list (https://ultranutrition.co/does-not-contain/) there are substantial lists of ingredients regularly used by supplement companies that we have chosen not to include in any of our products.

When choosing what to eat you should avoid the following ingredients:

Trans Fat or Hydrogenated fat
This is a type of unsaturated fat which has been through the hydrogenation process. This increases the length of use by dates and helps form even consistencies in food. It is found in lots of processed foods and foods that are made cheaply. The deep-frying process which repeatedly boils fats can also turn them into trans fats meaning you should avoid fast food outlets that deep fry food as the fat is boiled repeatedly.
These types of fats are proven to be bad for you and are linked to heart disease, increasing inflammation and an increased risk of diabetes.
When making your own food use natural fats rather than processed ones. Avoid trans fats, they have no positive benefits and many negative health implications.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup
This is a sweetener that is made from corn. It can usually be found in fizzy drunks, sweets and other convenience foods. It is high in fructose, which is fruit sugar, but it does not contain the benefits of the fibre and vitamins that are found in fruit.
The calories in high-fructose corn syrup are empty, meaning they have no nutritional benefit and contain no vitamins, minerals or fibre. Consuming this can cause weight gain and diabetes when consumed alone in high quantities.
Avoid foods with this ingredient as it is cheaply made indicating other items in the food made be cheaply made, with the manufacturer concentrating on price rather than nutrition. It is associated with weight gain and diabetes and has also been shown to cause inflammation.

Artificial colouring
Many food dyes are found in processed foods, artificial food colouring is used to brighten the appearance of many processed foods.
Some specific dyes have been proven to be allergens, leading to allergic reactions, as well as promoting hyperactivity in children. More research is constantly underway to verify the effects of artificial food dyes.

Sodium Nitrite
This is used as a preservative to stop bacteria growing whilst making meat a reddish colour and adding a salty taste.
When heated and in the presence of amino acids, nitrites can change to nitrosamine, this has many negative effects on health.
Many studies have reported that a high intake of nitrites and nitrosamine is associated with a higher risk of stomach, colorectal, breast and bladder cancer. Aim to reduce your intake of processed meats. Swap them for unprocessed meats, vegetables, fish, or eggs as well as supplements as your sources of protein,

Sodium Benzoate
A preservative used in carbonated drinks and acidic foods like salad dressings, fruit juices and condiments. Several studies have shown this ingredient has several negative effects:

  • One study found that when combined with artificial food colouring there was an increased hyperactivity in 3-year-old children.
  • Another study showed a high intake of drinks containing sodium benzoate was associated with more symptoms of ADHD.
  • When combined with vitamin C, sodium benzoate can be converted into a benzene, these are associated with the developments of cancer.

Carbonated drinks contain the highest concentration of benzene, and diet or sugar-free drinks are even more prone to benzene formation Avoid all foods and drinks that contain benzoic acid, benzene or benzoate, especially if combined with a source of vitamin C such as citric acid or ascorbic acid.

Overview

To live a healthy lifestyle it’s important that you fuel your body with good foods. If you avoid processed, convenience foods you will avoid all of the above ingredients.  Many of these ingredients are used to make food at low cost rather than to make them nutritious.

Ultra Nutrition don’t use any of these ingredients in our supplements and you can find some ideas for alternative ‘treats’ on our meal ideas page.

 

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