It is mandatory that manufacturers disclose all ingredients their products are made with, but these are not always shown clearly. We wanted to provide you with a clear guide for you to be able to read these labels and understand what it is you are actually eating.
1. Notice the order of the ingredients listed.
The ingredients are always listed in a descending order by weight in the item. Therefore, if a sliced bread is sold as rye or with whole grains, those ingredients would be listed first before the refined wheat flour (or at least this should this be the case). Otherwise it is not whole-wheat.
2. The shorter the list, the better.
The fewer the ingredients, the closer to it being "natural". If the item contains few ingredients, it is most likely a low-processed food. Foods with just one ingredient are not required to carry this list.
3. Take into account the additives your foods may contain.
Additives are substances that are added to food to prevent food from rotting, or to simply provide more flavor, color, smell...One of the drawbacks when it comes to identifying them is that they can have more than one denomination. There are suspicions about their effects on health, although health authorities continue to say that they are safe.
4. Beware of added sugars.
Remember that sugars often are in disguise under different names. If you read corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, glucose, sucrose, fructose, brown rice syrup, artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, brown rice syrup, artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, cane syrup or fruit juice concentrates on the label, it means that it has “added sugar”.
5. Check the source of fat.
Instead of focusing on the calories, make sure you read and understand where the fats are coming from. Beware of highly processed oils such as canola oil, vegetable oil, and palm oil as they contain high amounts of trans fats.
6. Understand the protein, sodium and fiber content.
Knowing this information is far more important than calories! The protein and fiber quantity should be balanced and the sodium amount should be low. For instance, the abuse of sodium is associated with hypertension and fluid retention.
7. Misleading claims.
Packaged foods have health claims that are made to catch our attention and convince us that the product is healthy. Some of the most common claims are: Light, multigrain, natural, organic, no added sugar, low-calorie, low-fat, low-carb, made with whole grains, gluten-free, fruit-flavored, zero trans fat.
There are of course many exceptions to the rule, but keep in mind that just because a label makes certain claims, doesn’t guarantee that its nutritional value is healthy.