Here’s What Food Labels Really Mean – NBC 7 San Diego

You see them every time you’re in a grocery store. Labels with promising claims like “natural,” “very low sodium,” and “sugar-free.” What do they actually mean and should you pay more for products because of them?

Consumer Reports clears up the confusion by revealing which labels help you make healthy choices and which are just hype?

Some food labels are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but others are not, and they may not mean what you think they mean.

If you want to choose foods produced without harmful pesticides or fertilizers, look for the USDA organic label, which has strict verification rules. Ignore labels that say “pesticide free” or “zero pesticide,” as these terms are not regulated.

In the United States, approximately 80% of consumers throw away their food due to confusion over the label date.

If you’re trying to reduce your salt intake, look for labels that say “low sodium” or “very low sodium.” Low sodium foods contain 140 mg or less per serving, and very low sodium foods contain 35 mg or less per serving.

“No salt added” and “unsalted” do not always mean sodium-free. These terms mean that no salt was added during processing, but some foods naturally contain sodium.

Now, to tame the sweet tooth: you’ll need to look for labels that say “no added sugars” or “sugar-free.” And “no added sugars” means exactly that. For products like tomato sauce and ketchup, look for “no added sugars” but not “sugar free,” because tomatoes naturally contain sugar. These are added sugars that you need to be careful of. “Slightly sweet,” “slightly sweet,” “a little sweet,” and similar terms are not regulated.

These labels are found on most prepackaged food products in the United States. They are full of important information that can be difficult to decipher. Here’s how to read one of these labels.

“Reduced sugar content” is also regulated by the FDA. This means that the food contains at least 25 percent less sugar than a comparable product. Whether this is a good thing depends on the starting amount.

Now let’s move on to the bread section. Count on these claims: “100% whole grain” and “100% whole wheat.” Products labeled “multigrain” or “whole grain” may contain refined grains. Experts at Consumer Reports found that less than half of the breads in a recent review labeled with terms like these were 100 percent whole grain.

Claims like “excellent source of” or “rich in” fiber guarantee that you’ll get at least 20 percent of the daily value of 28 grams, or 5.5 grams, per serving.

Still not sure about an item you want to purchase? Just turn it inside out: the ingredient list and Nutrition Facts panel is a better source of nutritional information than the claims on the front of the package.

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