If you want to shop for health, you need to read the jargon on nutrition labels at the supermarket to find out what you may be putting in your body. Here’s a ready reckoner of the final label checks to make before adding that packet or bottle to your shopping cart:
Manufacturers deliberately list small serving sizes so it looks like the ingredients (including the unhealthy ones) are present in smaller quantities than they actually are. This can give the overall impression that the bad stuff is present in negligible traces. Read the serving sizes carefully.
This one’s obvious. As a thumb rule, avoid products with words you can’t pronounce – these could be harmful preservatives. Look to see if calories, proteins, fats, fibers, vitamins, and minerals come from healthy sources, and in healthy proportions. You also need to look out for allergens such as gluten, nuts, or soy. Be wary of products with cholesterol and sodium – you don’t need the bad fats and the excess salt.
Read the entire label, because the ingredients are listed in descending order of weight. Watch out for ingredient splitting – a label manipulation technique where more than one kind of substance is used, each in small quantities, so they figure only at the bottom of the list. This can take place with harmful substances like preservatives (sulfites, nitrates, benzoates, etc.) and artificial sweeteners (any words ending with ‘ose’).
Minimally processed foods are healthier, because they contain the wholesome goodness of the original food. If a product is powdered, sprouted, dried or dehydrated, it is safe and healthy. Also, do not believe a label if it says ‘from whole grains’ unless it says‘Certified 100% whole grains’.
All manufacturers try to make their food as pleasing to the tongue as possible, not considering the effects on the rest of the body. So if a label says ‘fat-free’, it could be stuffed with sugar to make up for not having fat. Dairy-free foods may still contain derivatives listed using unrecognizable names.