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Posted on 10-21-2015

Posted: March 9, 2015
By: Dr Peter Clark

Small (and sometimes not so small) changes to your diet can pay off in a big way.  
There are many types of diets available, there are those for loosing weight, for athletes, some promote large amounts of protein, some fruits and veggies. Whether you are on a “diet” or not, it is important to read the label of the foods you are consuming. It is best to look for foods that are the least processed and closest to their original state. In other words less of “refined” “reduced” “modified” “added” and altered in any way, and more natural, whole, and unmodified. And just because the label states something, don’t believe it! READ the nutritional label. Manufacturers are marketers and know how to advertise. Some things to look for on the label are:

  • Ingredients: The shorter the list, the better. It is even better when you are able to recognized and pronounce all the ingredients.
  • Sugars: If an ingredient ends in “ose” (such as sucrose, sucralose, dextrose etc.) it is a sweetener. Sugar is better than an artificial sweetener, but keep it to 4 grams or less. Any sweetener that is added beyond the sugar that is found naturally in a food (such as an apple) is added sugar. The less added sugars and sweeteners, the better.
  • Protein: Go for it, especially if the protein is natural and comes in the form of free range organic chicken, eggs, fish etc.
  • Trans Fats: Foods listed as containing “partially hydrogenated” ingredients contain trans fats, even if the Nutrition Facts label states “0 grams” of trans fat. Companies are only required to label trans fats above 0.5 grams per serving, so look out for sneaky labeling.
  • Sodium: There is a lot of talk about sodium. You really don’t need to worry unless you have high blood pressure. If high blood pressure is a problem, make sure your daily sodium intake is under 1,500 milligrams. (also be sure to take your fish oil)
  • Cholesterol: Cholesterol in your food has little to do with your body’s cholesterol level. What you need to avoid are foods with saturated and trans fats, and syrups and added sugars.
  • All Natural: Sugar is natural but so are cyanide and arsenic. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Ignore the phrasing and look at the ingredients.
  • Whole Grain: Look for items that are 100% whole grain. Manufacturers loosely use the term whole grain even when there is a much smaller percent of whole grain actually being used. If it isn’t 100% then you are getting simple carbs and less benefits from the product.  
  • Food Dyes: Artificial coloring added in foods has been linked to cancer and ADHD. Dyes are added to almost every food, try to limit as much as possible. (When you are eating unprocessed foods you are avoiding dyes.)
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup: AVOID it. One of the ways that manufacturers name ingredients to make them sound like something that you can actually digest… high fructose corn syrup is made from corn, water, sulfuric acid, alpha-amylase, glucoamylase, and glucose isomerase. Need I say more?
  • Look for: Free range, organic, non gmo, hormone free (or no hormones added), and locally grown when ever possible. The less processed, the better.

It can be time consuming to read labels. However, once you take the time to educate yourself on  healthier brands and items, food choices will be easier and you will reap the benefits of a healthier you.

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