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Wellness Tip: How to Read Between the Lines on Nutrition Labels

Over the years, we have become more aware of the importance of reading nutrition labels. But did you know that the Nutrition Facts label can contain a margin of error of up to 20%?

A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 90% of ingredients in foods within a randomly-chosen small sample size fell within the acceptable 20 percent variance to actual levels, with the most inaccurate values being iron and Vitamin A.


The GAO report stated that of the audited labels, almost one-third of them had overestimated the amount of iron content.

“Here’s a rule of thumb: unless a packaged, non-meat food is iron-fortified — in which case, the word “iron” would appear in the ingredient list — any label’s claim to have more than 10 percent of the daily value for iron per serving should be viewed with great suspicion.”, says Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN.

Vitamin A

In terms of Vitamin A, the GAO report found that vitamin levels in the audited food labels were actually underestimated.

“As a general rule: snacks or foods containing a hefty dose of dark, leafy greens or orange fruits or vegetables — carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potato, apricot or mango — should also have a hefty dose of Vitamin A, which stands up quite well to the rigors of food processing.”

Though it’s sometimes easy to ignore food labels, knowing the nutrition facts of particular foods can aid in things like weight loss and help with carb counting for diabetics, minimizing sodium levels for those with high blood pressure, and boosting iron content for babies’ diets.

Here are a few tips to minimize the risk of being steered in the wrong direction by nutrition labels:

  1. Eat more whole, unpackaged, minimally-processed foods
  2. Be sure that packaged foods have a short, recognizable ingredient list
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet of foods containing whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, and/or beans, which are most likely to deliver the most nutritional benefits

Source: US News



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