Food label literacy for healthy living
Riboflavin, cholesterol, krypton...ok, the last one is Superman's home planet, but the first two are items that show up on your food labels and may be intimidating enough to scare you form enquiring what is in the food you are buying. Food manufacturers are required, by law, to display labels disclosing the quantities of macro and micro nutrients available in a serving of their product, which is good. But it is only good in the way that hieroglyphics are good for Indiana Jones. If you aren't trained at reading these labels, they may as well be giant eyes and stick figures with wolf heads. There is a lot of information on the label of a food container, but you don't have all day to pull out your abacus and calculate the percentage of your daily recommended intake of sodium a product consumes. Instead, it is better keep label reading simple. Don't be fooled The first thing you should know is what NOT to look for. With a recent health push in the grocery and food production industry, words like All Natural, Gluten free, Fat free, Sugar free, etc, are appearing on packages everywhere. Firstly, I know my potatoe is soy and gluten free, you don't need to throw a label on it telling me so. Second, Natural doesn't mean healthy. Companies are playing off of a new "Organic" movement that is gaining momentum in the western world (we are far behind Europe in this regard, by the way), and trying to insinuate that their product is wholesome. Don't buy it for a second. When label-reading, it is best to keep things simple (KISS sucka). When I label shop, I look at 5 categories: Trans fat, Sodium, Sugar, Fibre and Protein. That's right, I don't give a flying Fig about carbs!
Trans fat You'll notice I didn't just say "Total Fat". That's because total fat is not the enemy. As I'm sure you have heard, a certain level of fats are good, and certain fats are even required. But Trans Fat is not required and does not occur frequently in natural (un-processed foods). Most trans fat is created through the hydrogenation process and consumption of this type of fat is directly linked to heart disease. Egg yolks have received a bad reputation over the years because they are high in cholesterol, but the fact is that eating cholesterol from natural sources is not really a big deal, however Trans Fat is directly responsible for raising cholesterol production in the body to dangerous levels, ultimately causing plaque build up in your arteries. Avoid foods that contain Trans Fat, there is simply no reason to eat it. Sodium Sodium is the culprit for a lot of health issues in today's eat on the go world. The thing about sodium is that our body loves the taste of it. It gives us an instant blood pressure spike (contributing to elevated levels, over time), and can lead to kidney stones and kidney failure. Sodium isn't all bad though, in tandem with potassium, it is a necessary electrolyte that facilitates innervation of our muscles, and contributes to enhanced recovery time in athletes. The issue is that the general population consumes way too much sodium. For