The labels like "organic," "natural," and "sugar-free" that we see on a snack's packaging can be (if not often) deceiving. Solution? Check the nutrition facts and the ingredients list.
If all the numbers confuse or intimidate you, don't worry. We have a guide on how to read nutrition labels.
But what should you be looking for when you want to easily know if the product is healthy?
On the nutrition facts, look for the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) present, since these are the ones your body needs in large amounts. Check the breakdown because not all the carbs and fat are good for you. Trans fat, for instance, is bad for you. Your body can't digest it, so it clogs your arteries and liver, and increases your risk of coronary heart disease and death from cardiovascular disease.
Omega-3, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat are the healthy fat. The first helps your brain stay active and healthy in the long run. The second helps your body burn food more efficiently, while the third (in small amounts) can lower bad cholesterol and risk of heart disease.
On the ingredients list, you should know that the ingredients are usually arranged in order of weight, the one with the highest being the first you'll see. Be on the look out for hydrogenated oils, because they signal the presence of trans fats.
You'd also want to eat whole grains because of their high fiber content that regulates bowel movement hence helping in weight management. Look for "whole grains," not just "wheat flour." (Both are filed under "Total Carbohydrates" on the nutrition facts.)
"Added sugars" are a huge no-no, since they're the causes for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain. Food products that are marketed as healthy like yogurt, granola, and energy bars usually have a lot of added sugars to make them taste really good. But you're not going to see "added sugars" or "sugar" on the ingredients list. Instead, you'll see "high-fructose corn syrup" or something similar. When you do, consider putting the product back to the shelf, or eat it as a cheat snack.
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