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Food Labels: What Do They Mean By 'Reduced Fat'?

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Food labels can be quite confusing. Their intended purpose is to inform us on the nutritional aspects of what we are consuming. However, it seems as though, more often than not, they trick us into thinking we are choosing a healthy food item, which may not always be the case.

Reduced Fat

The words "reduced fat", on a food label, indicate that the product contains 25 percent less fat than the original version. This does not, necessarily, mean that the product is low in fat. A product can be labeled low fat if it contains 3 grams or less of fat per serving and the total fat content is 30 percent or less of the total calorie count. Many reduced fat foods still contain significant amounts of fat. This may be especially true of reduced fat dessert products such as ice cream, cakes and cookies.

In fact, a reduced fat food item may be unhealthier, in some aspects, than the original version of the product. It's not uncommon for additional salt and sugar to be added to the reduced fat food to make up for the loss of flavor that often results from lowering the fat content. This can be especially troublesome for those who, because of health reasons, are watching their sodium or sugar intake.

Understanding Food Labels

To really know how much fat a food contains, you need to have an understanding of food labels. The thing that probably trips consumers up most often is serving size. For example, one small can of condensed soup may state 2 ½ servings per container. If you are planning on consuming the whole can you have to multiply the fat content by 2 ½ to get an accurate count.

Fats will be listed on a food label in grams as well as in percentage of daily value. The percentage of daily value, as it refers to fat, let's you know the maximum amount you should be taking in daily and how much the product will contribute to this allowance.

Food labels break down total fat content into sub categories of saturated fat and trans fat. This allows the consumer to determine the percentage of unhealthy fats contained in the product.

Necessary Dietary Fat

A healthy diet needs to include a certain amount of fat. All the cells of the body depend on fat to function properly. While a little fat is good, more is not better. Most experts advise that no more than 25 to 35 percent of daily calories come from fat. Ideally these calories should come from healthy fats. Healthy fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Substituting healthy fats for unhealthy, saturated fats, in ones diet, may be beneficial in preventing cardiovascular disease. This is because these healthy fats have the ability to raise good (HDL) cholesterol and lower bad (LDL) cholesterol in the body. Foods such as fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils are good sources of healthy fats.

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