Published: 09/19/2012 - Updated: 02/17/2018
Walk into any supermarket and you will find lots of packaged foods, endowed with information that tells us how healthy they are. From "fat free" to "natural", and of course there are some who mention that they "help your immune system". Today, the product labels can give the appearance of good nutrition, but the reality is a bit more complicated.
Unlike the Nutrition Facts panel, which is jealously regulated, the label on the front of the package does not have much control. In addition, food companies tend to exaggerate the properties of food, making a product look like something miraculous.
Although the labels mention the properties of food, we as consumers can learn how to really understand what they say, and prevent bad products.
No fat, sugar or salt
When a food is labeled as free of salt, sugar or fat, they do not have any or contain an insignificant amount. If the package says "no calorie", then you probably have less than 5 calories per serving. For sugar or fat, this means that the food has less than 0.5 grams per serving. But beware, a food might say "fat free", and yet may contain a lot of calories in sugar. If you are watching your weight, you should also look at the total calories.
Low fat, low sugar or low salt
If a product is labeled low in a particular item, it means you can eat several servings without exceeding the recommended daily limit. Low fat products have less than 3 grams of fat per serving.
Those who claim to be low in saturated fat means they have less than 1 gram per serving. Low sodium means the food has 140 milligrams or less per serving, and "low cholesterol" means it has 20 mg. or less and less than 2 grams of saturated fat. Low calorie products have less than 40 calories per serving, but they are not free of calories.
No Trans Fats
Even if the label of a package says "trans fat free", beware. Products bearing this label may still have up to half a gram of trans fat per serving, if you eat a lot of rations, that would be bad. Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fats that raise LDL cholesterol (bad) and increases the risk of heart disease. Because of these health hazards, trans fats have been banned or restricted in many countries.
Some products state on their labels that have healthy properties, though they must be substantiated by scientific studies. However, there is little control over the data that a food claims to do in your body and functions.
As in the following example, if a label indicates that a food "may help reduce the risk of heart disease" would require a study to demonstrate its effectiveness and impact, while "helps maintain a healthy heart" would not.
We should not get carried away by these properties that mention front labels, as they are all quite misleading. If we have any doubt of how a food will help us to improve our health, it is best to check their properties in other sources, more accurate and scientific, since it may be a marketing strategy to attract consumers who are concerned about their health.