A big mistake we make when it comes to food is we focus only on what is printed on the front of the food packaging. What you find on the front is 100% marketing bullshit. The most misleading food labels are:
No sugar added
Zero trans fat
Made with real fruit
You need to learn how to read what is on the back of the packaging. The problem is that food regulations are complex and sometimes it is not easy to. understand these labels. The objective of this blog is to clue you in on what to look for when you flip the packaging.
Step 1: Look at the List of Ingredients
The ingredients in a food product are listed in order of weight, with the largest quantity first. Sugar is the biggest enemy in modern diets. Manufacturers have become creative in disguising sugar through fancy names. All sugar is bad and it does not matter where it comes from. Organic raw sugar is no better than white sugar. Syrup, honey, and agave nectar are not much better than normal sugar. Any ingredient ending in -ose is sugar (for example lactose, fructose, galactose, glucose, and maltose). Also be on the lookout for barley malted, molasses, corn sweetener, dextran, malted powder ethyl maltol, fruit juice concentrates, disaccharides, and maltodextrin.
Step 2: Look at the Nutritional Information Table
The key things to look for in this table are energy, protein, carbohydrates, sugar, fats, fiber, and sodium content. The information is presented per 100g and per recommended serving size. When you are comparing products, I would recommend focusing on the first column which is the per 100g.
Energy is measured in kilojoules and calories. If a food is high in calories, it is not necessarily bad. On average, one avocado has more than 300 calories. KFC Chicken Littles also has 300 calories. Avos are exponentially more healthy than KFC Chicken Littles so you need to understand that not all calories are created equal so you probably don't want to place much attention on this line on the label.
While fat and carbs are controversial, everyone agrees that protein is important. Protein reduces appetite and hunger levels and therefore prevents overeating, it increases muscle mass and strength, is good for your bones, it lowers blood pressure, and helps your body repair itself after injury. Can too much protein be harmful? The short answer is yes. As with most things in life, there can be too much of a good thing and if you eat too much protein, there may be a price to pay. For example, people that eat very high protein diets have a higher risk of kidney stones.
Recommendation: You want to aim for medium consumption of protein in your diet.
Thirty years ago it was believed that all fats were bad and everyone was aiming for a low-fat diet. This shift away from fat did not make us healthier because we cut back on the healthy fats and the harmful ones. Good fat helps your body absorb vitamins and minerals, blood clotting, muscle movement, and build cell membranes. The worst fat is trans fat - they have no known health benefits and there is no safe level of consumption. Then you have saturated fats that come from red meat, milk, cheese, coconut oil, and many commercially prepared baked goods. Although not bad for you, they need to be consumed in moderation. The final member in the fat camp is the mono and polyunsaturated fats. They are awesome and come mainly from vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish. The biggest difference between mono and polyunsaturated fats, and saturated fats is that the former are liquid at room temperature while the latter is solid (think about cooled bacon grease).
Recommendation: You want to aim for foods with zero trans fat, medium reading on saturated fat, and high numbers on mono and polyunsaturated fats,
Carbs and Sugar
Of those markers, total carbs and sugar are the most important information you need to focus on. Remember that carbohydrates convert into sugar once ingested into your body. You there want to meet your carb and sugar intake down. The reason for this is that you want your body to switch to using fat as its primary energy source instead of glucose from carbohydrates which is fucking up your mind and body. Sugar is a poison and you need to reduce your sugar consumption. Fat, on the other hand, is a very energy-dense molecule and you have plenty of it to fuel your body.
Recommendation: You want to aim for foods low in carbs and sugar.