Nutrition Facts Label: Should We Really Care?

What are Nutrition Facts Label?

“The Nutrition Facts label is required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on most packaged foods and beverages. The Nutrition Facts label provides detailed information about a food’s nutrient content, such as the amount of fat, sugar, sodium and fiber it has.” (Source: Mayo Clinic)

When do you start caring about nutritional facts – Now, Sometimes, or Never?

If you’re like me who can eat anything I want at anytime without any problem. I’m not one to act frenziedly about the daily caloric intake of my food or meal. I’m grateful to be blessed with a petite stature; except that my doctor thinks that I might be overweight because of my BMI. Read my thoughts on that here. Though I watch certain seafoods that I eat, I’m free from any sort of allergic reactions visible or latent in foods, and who humbly says that overall health and wellbeing is pretty good, you might fall into the category of “Never.”

. . .

But wait a minute. All that might change as it did for me when I had some skin issues that were diagnosed as extremely dry skin; not eczema not psoriasis. Thank goodness. The dryness were only on my scalp, which occasionally flared, and certain parts of my body. I got myself a skin haircut and I’m loving it.

Thereafter, I became extremely concerned about what I feed my body. I became particular about nutritional contents of every food and drink; wanting more of certain nutrients and less or none of some.

I began wandering about the validity of nutritional facts. How do we verify the information on those labels? Do they really contain all the items and percentages listed? Except for iron and calcium which are obvious by their outcomes; that is, the “greenness” of one’s excreta and nails growing respectively, it’s difficult to validate the remaining nutrients.

For example, you know that your antibiotics are working when your urine smells like the antibiotics, right, which means its flushing out whatever shouldn’t have been internally. But what about the other minerals and nutrients supposedly in our foods? Do we merely accept the nutritional facts on the labels for what they are?

A, B, Y, or Z?

Anyways … I realized one day that I spent almost thirty minutes comparing the facts on all available milk brands because the store ran out of my usual brand. I went to the store for a quick pick up of milk, so spending that much time to compare was a lot of my time that I didn’t intend to spend. I finally chose one.

Also, at the onset of COVID-19 and the stay-at-home order, most stores were out of Black Eye Peas; my favorite type to buy. Same thing, I compared the nutritional values of every type of beans available. The nutritional information were all pretty similar. Though I tried other types of beans, I reverted to my Black Eye Peas.

. . .

I once blogged about adding avocado to every meal? I thought out one day; “what did I used to eat before avocado?” My daughter responded “beans!” And all present bursted into laughter. I love my beans – you gotta get your protein.

. . .

I also realized that I would compare the nutritional information of almost every available brand of food items before settling to buy one.

Again, I lately compared the nutritional values of jasmine rice and long grain parboiled rice. Imagine how many decades that I have been eating this staple food item only to now woke up to care about the nutritional facts?! I thought it interesting and mused at myself. Well, times are changing or realization of desiring to age gracefully is settling in 😊

By the way, the bag of jasmine rice contained zero nutrients (another brand contained only 2% Iron and 3g of Protein), but the long grain parboiled rice contained the following:

  • 25% Thiamine. • 8% Iron
  • 2% Calcium. • 15% Niacin
  • 50% Folate. • 3g of Protein

That made me ponder why we even bother with the nutritional facts. Growing up, we never bothered. Why now? Well again, times are changing especially with climate and environmental changes affecting produce and what the cows and fishes feed on.

Anyways, since this new “mindfully-healthy me” emerged, I became somewhat obsessed with nutritional facts. I began to wonder about the accuracy of the information we’re given? Are we sure that we’re really getting the correct amount of nutrients? How does food manufacturers know (or measure) the nutritional facts and values? Does anyone “police” food manufacturers? So I went on a search and this is what I found:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) (the government department responsible for controlling and supervising food safety among other things) states that nutritional information “help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.”

Nutritional facts are not only available for food items, but are supposed to be provided for menus at restaurants, including frozen and raw foods. I do not remember ever being given or seen any at restaurants though. Let me know, in the comments, if you have seen or being given the nutritional information of the food you ordered at any restaurant.

There are variations of nutritional facts labels. FDA has fifteen posted on its site.

The nutritional facts on labels are conducted via a nutritional analysis (“the process of determining the nutritional content of foods and food products”). According to information found on Wikipedia, there are various types of nutritional analysis; namely,

1. Laboratory analysis

2. Software

3. Online nutritional analysis

4. Turnkey nutritional analysis services.

You can read the full details of the methods here. Based on your reading, do you wonder, as I did, how feasible it is for manufacturers to conduct the analysis for every food item either once or regularly? I’ll love to hear your thoughts.

Click here for additional reading.

Final Thoughts

Nutritional facts on labels are not always accurate. According to a US Health News, “The law allows a pretty lax margin of error—up to 20 percent—for the stated value versus actual value of nutrients. In reality, that means a 100-calorie pack could, theoretically, contain up to 120 calories and still not be violating the law.”

A registered dietitian nutritionist writes that “manufacturers are often dishonest in the way they use these labels. They tend to use health claims that are misleading and in some cases downright false.”

Be your own expert when it comes to your health and wellbeing

Now that you know, be your own expert when it comes to your health and wellbeing and feed yourself based on the healthy food pyramid as well as the healthy eating plate.

As per, your daily caloric intake and nutritional information, do realize that though it states “facts” that the values are merely recommendations and should not be taken as gospel truth. Allowing a +/- twenty percent variance, coupled with exercise, might be more beneficial.

The FDA has detailed information on how to understand and use the Nutritional Facts Label. Check their website for more information. A downloadable format is also available.

Thanks for reading. I hope the information was helpful.