Reading Labels

We’ve talked about label reading before and you would think it’s a one-blog topic but alas, there’s always more. The food industry is akin to remodeling an old house. You never know what’s underneath the flooring until you pull it up. Often times, it’s more than what you bargained for. 

In the last article on label reading we talked about a few specific instances that were tricky or perhaps more difficult to understand. This time around, we have an ingredient topic and a reading comprehension topic, respectively. Don’t worry, there will not be a test at the end.


The most innocent of sugars. If it comes from fruit, it must be pretty okay, right? Sounds like a natural source.

Sure. If it actually comes from fruit.

A new standard in the industry is allowing manufacturers of High Fructose Corn Syrup to simply call the ingredient “fructose”. It’s certainly more innocent sounding, given the long and trivial history of HFCS. Basically, if the HFCS is at least 90% fructose it can be added to any light or natural product for sweetener, in certain amounts.

What’s the problem then? Still sounds innocent enough.

For one, fructose is actually harmful. To quote Dr. Mark Hyman, “Fructose goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol) this is why it is the major cause of liver damage in this country and causes a condition called “fatty liver” which affects 70 million people.” 

That’s only one example.

Next, some people are actually allergic to corn. With an ingredient like “fructose” it would be acceptable for one to assume the sugar is from a fruit source, since this is a common concept. An even trickier scenario might be for a consumer to read the label of a product that is marketing a fruit flavor, something like strawberry flavored cereal. It would be perfectly natural for the consumer to assume the fructose flavoring to come from strawberries when in fact, it comes from corn. Especially since that company can now label the product “High Fructose Corn Syrup Free!” Now imagine that consumer has a corn allergy. Hopefully our imaginary friend doesn’t react too strongly to that allergy! 

% Daily Value

Here’s the reading comprehension part we promised you. Not to fret, it’s much more simple than it seems and perhaps calling it “reading comprehension” may have been too academic sounding. But we got your attention, right?

It’s easy to overlook titles. We skip over them and get right to the technical numbers, only to become confused. Think about the title. Where does daily value come from?

THE Daily Values, as in, the FDA’s Established Daily Value. The percentages of nutrients represent the amount that a particular product contains the recommended daily value. This can become a little complicated, since the values are based on studies of large populations so it wouldn’t be too presumptuous to think of this as a good guideline.

Because every diet preference is different and every person needs a different amount of nutrients for optimal health, this guideline truly only offers an idea of the value that you, specifically, may need.

However, labels also have an actual, tangible amount and not just a suggestion of consumption. This is where a little knowledge of bio-individuality comes in handy. That’s a fancy way to say every person is different and therefore needs a different compilation of nutrients.

To figure this out, you need to first establish a dietary philosophy. What protocol do you adhere to for health? There are many different approaches to the ultimate healthy diet. Which one is best for you? If you’re not sure, try them out. See how you feel. Gauge how you respond both physically and mentally.

Next, you may need to find out what you are deficient in. This can be done with blood tests, and it’s always best to consult your doctor for this information.

These do not necessarily have to be done in that order. In fact, it may be good to seek your doctor first in order to get a good idea of what diet falls in line with your specific needs. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort!

Take control of your own health. Take it one step at a time. But mostly, enjoy the process!

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