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BellaOnline's Geriatrics Editor

Read the Label Before You Eat

By getting in the habit of reading the nutrition label on food before buying it, you can make a dramatic improvement in your health. Reading labels is far more important than comparing prices to save money. By reading labels you may save much more than dollars and cents. You may save yourself a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering.

Pretty labels and fancy advertising do not make a product good for you. Look at how glamorous cigarette advertising once was (and still is in some places). Regardless of all the fancy packaging and enticing publicity, cigarettes have been linked to hundreds of thousands of deaths each year in this country alone.

Do not be seduced by highly paid advertising agencies. They get paid to make their clients rich, not to help consumers live longer, healthier lives.
Learn to make your own informed decisions and do not be distracted by a colorful package or popular gimmicks.

As most people are aware, the leading causes of death in America, namely heart attacks, strokes, and various types of cancer, claim thousands of lives each day.
Scientific studies have documented over and over again the role a healthy diet plays in dramatically reducing one’s risk of these deadly diseases.

All calories fall into one the following categories: fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Fat contains approximately 9 calories per gram while both protein and carbohydrates contain close to 4 calories per gram. This is particularly important to know when you are watching your weight.

A standard nutrition label begins with the following:
*Serving size
*Servings per container
*Calories and calories from fat

Underneath these values you will find the ‘%Daily Value’ in each serving. This value is based on a 2,000 calorie/day diet. (Please note, for many people 2,000 calories/day is far more than they need). You will also find the amount (in grams or milligrams) of the same nutrients, which are listed below:
*Total fat (which is broken down into saturated and unsaturated fat, and perhaps Trans fat as well)
*Total carbohydrate

Next you will typically find the percentage of various vitamins and minerals. Based on the size of the label, you may also find a footnote.

Reading food labels does not prevent you from enjoying your favorite, not-so-healthy foods every now and again, but it should give you confidence that the BALANCE between the good and the bad is in order. For instance, if you want to eat an item high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium (salt) for lunch, balance it by having oatmeal and a glass of orange juice for breakfast and a salad for dinner. So pamper your taste buds and eat up, just eat wisely.

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Content copyright © 2013 by A. Maria Hester, M.D.. All rights reserved.
This content was written by A. Maria Hester, M.D.. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Patricia Villani, MPA, PhD for details.

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