Wellness Wednesday: Food Labels Explained

As you eat your cereal in the morning, you notice it on the side of the box—that small, white rectangle with the jumble of words, numbers and percentages. It’s the nutrition facts label, and it breaks down what’s inside the box—everything from calories to cholesterol. Reading it can be a little confusing, but by breaking it down, you’ll have a clear understanding of the value the information provides in helping you maintain a healthy diet.

Start Here Check Calories Limit these Nutrients Get Enough of these Nutrients Footnote Quick Guide to %DV

Sample label for Macaroni and Cheese

1. Serving Size: A serving size is the recommended amount of a food that should be eaten by one person. It is important to pay attention to the serving size because the item you’re eating may contain several servings. This means that if you eat an entire bag of chips that contains three servings, you’re really eating three times the calories, fat, etc., that are listed on the label.

2. Calories and 3. Calories from Fat: This number indicates the total number of calories and the number of calories which are derived from fat that are contained in one serving of food. You should aim for getting only about 30 percent of your daily calories from fat.

4. Nutrient List and Amounts: Food companies must list, at a minimum, the amount of fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, protein, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron that are contained in one serving of a product. Some labels also display trans fats. The required nutrients were chosen because they relate to current health concerns, such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Your goal should be to consume no more than 100 percent of the daily value for fat, cholesterol and sodium, and at least 100 percent of the daily values for vitamins A and C, iron and calcium.

5. Percent Daily Values Footnote: This shows the maximum amounts of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, as well as target amounts for total carbohydrates and fiber, that should be consumed each day. This is based on a suggested diet of 2,000 calories. Keep in mind that necessary calorie amounts vary for each individual.

6. Percent Daily Values: These percentages tell you how one serving of food fits, nutritionally, into a daily diet of 2,000 calories.

Reading food labels is a crucial part of maintaining healthy eating habits. It allows you to make informed choices about the foods you eat and compare the nutritional value of different foods. A good diet and an active lifestyle can help your body stay healthy and disease-free.

Sources: http://www.bsi-ins.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Food-Labels.pdf

http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm274593.htm#see4

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Leaky Gut Syndrome: A Gut Wrenching Tale

CareerWomanStomachCSP72dpiIt feels just like another one of those days you have been experiencing a lot lately. No matter what you eat, it seems to wreak havoc on your stomach: gas, bloating, and frequent trips to the bathroom have taken over your days, leaving you tired, irritable and wondering if this is never going to stop. 

Foods that you used to digest fine are now causing the most discomfort, and even if you just eliminated them from your diet, you’re are still not feeling relief.

With a discussion with your doctor, you might be subjected to a series of tests on your Gastrointestinal System (GI) and prescribed medication. But the symptoms still don’t go away, and instead just get worse.

Your stomach is trying to tell you that something is definitely wrong—and it just might be Leaky Gut Syndrome.

The foundation of good health lies in proper digestive function. All other health factors can be undermined if you don’t digest and absorb nutrients properly. Assimilation of vitamins, minerals, proteins and essential fatty acids from the foods you eat and the supplements you take is required for optimum health.

Because of the way our bodies are connected, inflammation in the gut can eventually lead to inflammation in the bones, heart, brain, or beyond, making osteoporosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, or other diseases you may have a genetic predisposition for even more likely as you age.

What is leaky gut?

Digestive stress can cause “Leaky Gut Syndrome,” in which the integrity of the intestinal lining is compromised and is no longer able to discern what should be absorbed into the blood stream and what is kept out. Molecules “leak” into the blood that should not be present, creating an overstimulation of the immune system, causing inflammation and tissue damage.

When food antigens “leak” into our blood stream, the immune system thinks they are foreign invaders and mounts an immune response that we experience as an allergic reaction. Yeast and bacteria can also “leak” into the blood stream and creating significant immune system activity causing it to weaken.

Beyond causing abdominal symptoms, leaky gut can cause symptoms throughout the body, including fatigue, joint and muscle pain, headaches and other symptoms. It can also cause gluten intolerance and allergies to foods that had never for been a problem.

What causes leaky gut?

So what causes leaky gut? Much still needs to be learned on the condition, but diet, chronic stress, certain medications and bacterial imbalance have been found to play important roles. Eating a diet high in refined sugar can lead to overgrowth of yeast species, which has been associated with leaky gut. Preservatives and chemicals in processed foods can damage the lining, as can the consumption of gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

Chronic stress can lead to a weakened immune system, affecting your ability to fight off invading bacteria and viruses and worsening the symptoms of leaky gut. Medications like aspirin and non-steroidal anti inflammatories (NSAIDs), i.e. ibuprofen, that can damage the lining of your gut, as well as antibiotics that kill off your essential good bacteria are also associated with increased intestinal permeability. Excessive alcohol consumption, infection with parasites, radiation and chemotherapy can damage the lining of the intestine and are also risk factors.

In addition to bloating and digestive distress, leaky gut can have a combination of other symptoms, such as food allergies, chronic sinus infections, achy joints, fatigue, brain fog or unexplained rashes.

How can we treat it?

The Institute of Functional Medicine developed the Four “R” Program to treat those suffering with Leaky Gut Syndrome

1.    Remove: Undertake an elimination diet. To stabilize and soothe the digestive tract, it is recommended that stop eating common allergens, such as gluten, dairy, soy, and other disruptive foods for a minimum of 14 days, to determine if a food allergy is present.

2.   Re-inoculate: Rebalance your gut flora. To re-establishing microfloral (the good bacteria) balance throughout the GI tract, your Functional Medicine practitioner will prescribe a well-formulated re-inoculate probiotics and probiotic supplements. In addition, foods like bananas, pears, applesauce, well-cooked squash, and so on, will help build up your digestive system your way up before adding more fibrous fruit and vegetables later on.

3.     Repair: Rebuild your intestinal cells. Your Functional Medicine practitioner will also supplements to replace depleted essential nutrients and promote proper repair of the intestinal lining.

4.   Regulate. Once repair has restore your digestive system to health, it is crucial that you continue to avoid anything you notice to cause GI upset.

If you are experiencing a multitude of symptoms that seem to center around your stomach, contact your Functional Medicine Practitioner to test you for Leaky Gut Syndrome. It can be treated and in most case cured with proper diet, supplements and rest to repair the damage and restore health.