More on the New Nutrition Facts Label

Food manufacturers  “must declare the actual amount in addition to percent Daily Value of Vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium”.  The footnote was changed to more completely explain the meaning of Daily Value.  “The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet with 2000 calories a day used for general nutrition advice”

It was noted that by law, serving sizes are required to be based on the amounts that people actually eat, not  on what they should eat.  For example, previously a serving of ice cream was given as 1/2 cup, but this has now been changed to 2/3 cup.  And the serving of soda was changed from 8 oz to 12 oz.  So the new labels are more realistic with respect to what people actually eat.

 

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Some Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label

Nutrition Facts Label comparisonOn May 20, 2016, the FDA finalized the new Nutrition Facts Label  for packaged foods.  Why these changes? It was noted that “the new label will make it easier for consumers to make informed food choices”.  So what are the major changes?  An increased font size was made for Serving Size, amount per serving and for Calories, both the for the word and for the numerical amount.  As noted in an earlier blog, a welcome addition is the line, “Includes –g added sugars” as a subline under Total Sugars.   This tells the consumer how much of the Total Sugar was added by the manufacturer (and presumably, this may cause less sugar to be added).  Additions to the label include Vitamin D and potassium, nutrients which it was pointed out, are often lacking in the diet of many people. Calcium and iron continue to be required, but Vitamins A and C are now optional. Although these changes are welcome and certainly represent an improvement over the current label, manufacturers have until July 26, 2018 to use the new label, although manufacturers with less than $10 million dollars in food sales have an additional year to make the changes.  More on some of the rationale for these changes in a following blog.

A little about Eggs and Cholesterol

Eggs have sometimes been maligned because of their rather high content of cholesterol.  The new dietary guidelines (DG2015) do not suggest a dietary limit on cholesterol and it includes eggs in healthy eating patterns.  At 70 calories for a large egg, it contains a rich array of vitamins and minerals, in effect a supplement for a large number of important nutrients.  Its protein is of the highest quality and it contains vitamin D which is noted for its deficiency in many diets.  Concern for blood levels of LDL,  the bad cholesterol and HDL, the good cholesterol is justified, but the cholesterol in our foods does not have a major effect on these 2 metabolites.  Factors which have a greater influence include exercise, bodyweight, consumption of trans and saturated fat, and heredity.  Much of the cholesterol in our bodies is produced by the liver.  With respect to eggs, moderation is an excellent principle to embrace.

More About Water

Sodas and soft drinks are mostly water, but their composition can vary widely.  Most vendors offer both regular and diet drinks which differ with the former having sugar in rather large quantity and either may have caffeine.  Although our bodies require large amounts of water, by drinking whenever we are thirsty and especially after strenuous workouts, we usually get all the water we need.  And all beverages contain some water, the ones we drink at breakfast such as, orange juice, milk and  coffee, all contain a high percentages of water which contribute to our need for water.  But with so much emphasis and large consumption of sodas in our culture, one should not forget the old standbys of lemonade, and ice tea which we can make ourselves to our individual tastes, and which are much less expensive and probably healthier.  Oh, yes, ice water works well too.

Water–the Pre-eminent Nutrient

Water provides many important physiological functions in the body.  As a nutrient, water is required in greater amounts than all other nutrients and its deprivation will cause deficiency symptoms sooner than that of any other nutrient.  Water may be a carrier of significant amounts of other nutrients and at times it can be a carrier of toxic (harmful) chemical compounds and microbiological agents.

In today’s culture, there is much concern about the quality of drinking water as shown by the sale of large quantities of bottled water, which seems to reflect the perception that bottled water has a higher “quality” than tap water.  In fact, the reverse may be the case if by tap water is meant the water from a municipal system.  This is so because municipal water systems are required by law to issue an annual report that shows an extensive and detailed array of analytical results.  In other word, transparency is a hallmark of the quality of water from municipal systems.  In contrast, a bottle of purified drinking water may carry on the label: “Quality Guarantee”, and an 800 number to call.  Whatever the results of such a call might be, one can assume that in many cases, the municipal water will be at least equal to or greater than the quality of the bottled water.

More on the Nutrition Facts Label

Some good information–just not enough.  The first line of the Nutrition Facts label lists the Serving Size upon which all the following calories and nutrient contributions are based.  For example, during the Christmas Season a popular beverage is eggnog.  As I read the label on one container, I assumed that it would be rather high in calories.  So I first read the calorie entry which read 220 calories–not too bad I thought as I assumed that it was referring to a serving size of 8 oz-240 ml, 1 cup, common for milk and a number of other beverages.  But then I noticed that the Serving Size was given as 1/2 cup.  And so this reminded me how important the Serving Size is as we compare foods and read labels.

What would be some welcome additions to the Nutrition Facts Label?  Potassium, which a few food companies are now including, although it is not now required on the label.  Because potassium is often limiting in our diets (as emphasized by the recent Dietary Guidelines-2015), it would be a welcome addition.  And as noted in a separate blog, added sugars on a separate line from total sugars (which is now listed),  would remind food companies that we can see how much sugar they are adding.  But to list a nutrient on the label is in effect to guarantee that concentration, so food companies are reluctant to add more nutrients to the label, especially when they are not required to do so.

More About Sugars

One may hear disparaging remarks about the sugar, “high fructose corn syrup”, (HFCS) which is made from corn starch.  HFCS is used throughout the world because it is easier to handle than the common granulated sugar, sucrose, and because the corn price is more stable and corn is more widely produced than are sugar cane and sugar beets from which sucrose is made.  However, HFCS is still sugar and it is used especially in soft drinks, but also in processed foods, cereals and baked products.  In addition to being less expensive than sucrose, HFCS is also sweeter; if sucrose is taken as 100, HFCS has a comparative sweetness of 130 to 180.

The real issue here is not that HFCS is used in our foods, but so much is included in the sodas, so popular in our culture.  The American Heart Assn. advises that women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, and men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons.  But a 12 oz can of regular soda contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar. So therein lies the problem.  Too many of us are eating far too much sugar for our own good health.  Again, read those labels.