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- Serving size: The amount of each nutrient on the label is based on the serving size listed. If you eat double the serving size, double the nutrient and calorie values. If you eat one-half the serving size, cut the nutrients and calories in half.
- Carbohydrates: This includes sugar, fiber and starch. Sugars are often hidden in the ingredients as high fructose corn syrup. Look for foods with high fiber (5 or more grams per servings).
- Total Fat: This includes all types of fat, saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats. Saturated and trans fats are bad fats that contribute to health problems such as high cholesterol and atherosclerosis. The American Heart Association recommends getting less than 16g of saturated fat and less than 2g of trans fats daily.
- Cholesterol: Limit to 300mg a day.
- Sodium: Limit to 2400?3300 per day in all foods. High levels can lead to high blood pressure.
- Percent Daily Value: The percent DV tells you the percent of each nutrient in a serving according to a 2,000 calorie diet. You may need more or less of a nutrient depending on your caloric needs. A food is considered a high source if it?s 20% or more of the DV.
To make healthy choices, you need to know how certain foods affect your body.
- Fat: Recognize the difference between fats. Saturated and hydrogenated (trans) fats can raise cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids may reduce your risk of developing coronary artery disease.3 Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, such as trout, tuna, and salmon, as well as in plant foods, such as flaxseed, canola oil, walnuts, wheat germ, and soy. They may also help lower blood pressure and triglycerides.
- Carbohydrate: Learn the differences between types of carbohydrate. Choose whole-grain sources of carbohydrate found in unprocessed cereal grains, such as brown rice instead of white rice and whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. Whole-grain sources of carbohydrate add fiber to your diet and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Sugar: Milk and fruits contain naturally occurring simple sugars, but they also contain many other vitamins and minerals. Added sugars, such as in granola bars and fruit drinks without 100% real fruit juice, have been refined so that all the other nutrients in the sugar are removed. Used sparingly, added sugars can enhance the taste of food. But too much sugar can fill you up and displace other more nutritious foods, contributing to excess calories and weight gain.