Did you ever wake up in the morning, make a choice, and find yourself consumed by that choice all day? For me, that was a choice I made for breakfast and thinking about the value of that choice.
I woke up late this morning and did not feel 100%. It is allergy season and without going through all the details of the misery that causes…let’s just say I was dragging tail. Not to mention, getting up late and feeling crappy, I wanted something warm, fast, and comfort food.
I decided not to go with my usual breakfast and grabbed leftovers instead—miso ramen (soybean) with seaweed. Long story; my husband wanted Thai. However, I felt like comfort food (soup for me), and the Ramen just spoke to me – it was a college food staple and it sounds healthier than other items on the menu. Anyway, I started thinking about its calories, nutritional value and did my usual and look up the nutritional information on the food.
Let’s take a deeper dive into food nutritional labels.
Why were nutritional food labels created
The original purpose of having the nutritional information on labels was because of a few things:
- People were no longer cooking all their food at home and were reaching for pre-prepared food.
- American health crisis – obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc.
- Inflated nutritional healthy claims of nutritionally poor foods.
What information do you get from food labeling
Nutritional labels on packaged foods intend to inform you of exactly “what” you are eating. Understanding what is in food should make it easier to make healthier choices. Additionally, according to the FDA they have “updated scientific information, new nutrition research, and input from the public” to continue to change requirements. Meantime…
The key information on a food label or nutritional information on websites is calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, protein, carbohydrates, vitamin content, salt, sugar and “serving size.” In fact, if you have food sensitivities or food allergies, such as peanuts, it can help you avoid that particular food.
What are the problems with food labeling
It is essential to realize that food labeling is not a beautiful science. In fact, by law, it can be off by 20% and often wildly inaccurate. Every ingredient is probably more of an estimation, including calorie counts.
Don’t get me started on “serving sizes.” If you look at the restaurant industry, you are often served heaping plates of food that far surpass a serving size.
What your body does with the food
Most people don’t consider what your body will do with that food. Just because the nutritional information details how much protein is in the food, for example, doesn’t mean your body will absorb it and use it 100%.
What matters is Food Absorption. The body takes nutrients from the food and releases them into the bloodstream. Food absorption is a complicated system that we can lose a little more nutrients at each phase anywhere along the way.
Overview of absorbing food
Without going through every organs roll in absorption, here is an overview
- Food passes through the stomach.
- Next, it is turned into energy in the small intestine.
- The villi (moist tissue lining) carry the nutrients to the bloodstream – where it is carried to the rest of the body.
That is not the whole story. Every nutrient is absorbed differently by every person. In fact, by the time you get over 50, calorie counting is an inexact science.
Indeed, there is much more detail in absorption; for example, undigested and non-useful nutrients pass through the large intestine…blah blah blah… bowel movements. The point is, what can you do about nutritional labels and maintaining a healthy diet?
What you can do
My Mom always said, “just do your best.” The best you can do is to flood your body with nutritious foods. Eat a well-balanced, low-fat diet with lots of vegetables, whole grains, and fruit.
I use food labels and look up the nutritional information on my foods while keeping in mind this information is a generality and not an exact science.
Keep in mind a balanced-diet:
- Use a balanced approach for macronutrients; 50% carbs, 25% protein, and 25% fats.
- American Heart Association recommends 2300 mg a day of sodium, and as you age, lower it to around 1500 mg. Keep in mind that if you have blood pressure issues, speak to your physician and suggest lowering it to 1,000 mg.
- It is recommended that women limit their sugar to 22 grams and men 36 grams per day. While it does come down to how fast your body absorbs it. Again, if you have health issues (i.e., obesity and diabetes) related to sugar, see your doctor for recommendations.
Starting my morning with comfort food might have been not ideal, but it can be rectified. While my miso ramen (soybean) with seaweed is made in a restaurant and sounds healthy. Researching the nutritional information is based on generalities. Generally speaking, my ramen is decent on calories, carbs, and protein; it is low on fat and sugar but high on sodium.
So what do I do with that information?
I make sure to eat only about a cup and keep the rest of my day healthy. I balance the rest of my day with healthier foods. In fact, my next meal is Chicken Scallopini (fresh lemon, tomatoes, a hint of wine, a dash of butter) with roasted asparagus and carrots. Later, for dinner I’ll either fast until breakfast or have some yogurt.
If your body doesn’t seem to be absorbing properly check out my article Older Adults Its Time to Reset.
Struggling with your weight? Read my article on Easiest Way to Attack Nutrition.