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NUTRITION

Understanding Food Labels: A Nutritionist Dietitian’s Guide to Making Informed Choices

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Understanding Food Labels: A Nutritionist Dietitian’s Guide to Making Informed Choices

Food labels have become an essential tool for consumers to make informed decisions about their food choices. However, navigating through the information available on food labels can be overwhelming. As a nutritionist dietitian, I understand the importance of interpreting food labels to help individuals make healthier choices. In this guide, I will provide valuable insights into understanding food labels and making informed decisions.

Reading the Nutrition Facts Label

The Nutrition Facts label provides detailed information about the nutrient content in a serving of food. When reading a Nutrition Facts label, it’s important to pay attention to serving size, calories, and nutrients such as fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein. Understanding these components can help you assess the nutritional value of the food and make better choices for your health.

Serving Size and Calories

The serving size listed on the Nutrition Facts label is critical for understanding the quantity of nutrients in a single serving of food. Be mindful of the serving size and compare it to the amount you typically consume. Understanding the serving size can help you avoid overeating and manage your calorie intake. Additionally, pay attention to the calorie content per serving, as it can impact your overall energy balance and weight management.

Fats, Cholesterol, and Sodium

The Nutrition Facts label provides information about the types and amounts of fats, cholesterol, and sodium in a serving of food. It’s important to limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, as well as cholesterol and sodium, to reduce the risk of heart disease and other health issues. Pay attention to the percentage of daily value (%DV) for these nutrients and aim for lower values, especially for saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium.

Carbohydrates, Fiber, and Sugars

Understanding the carbohydrate content, including dietary fiber and sugars, is essential for managing blood sugar levels and overall health. Aim for foods with higher dietary fiber content and lower added sugars to support digestive health and prevent spikes in blood sugar levels. Pay attention to the %DV for fiber and sugars and choose foods that are higher in fiber and lower in added sugars.

Protein and Other Nutrients

Protein is an essential nutrient for building and repairing tissues, supporting immune function, and maintaining a healthy weight. Pay attention to the protein content in foods and aim for a balanced intake throughout the day. Additionally, consider other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals listed on the Nutrition Facts label and choose foods that are rich in essential nutrients for overall health and well-being.

Understanding Ingredients Lists

In addition to the Nutrition Facts label, it’s important to read the ingredients list on food packaging. The ingredients list provides valuable information about the composition of the food and can help you identify potential allergens, additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. Look for foods with simple, recognizable ingredients and avoid products with excessive additives or artificial substances.

Making Informed Choices

Understanding food labels is crucial for making informed choices about the foods we consume. By reading and interpreting the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list, we can better assess the nutritional value and quality of the food we eat. As a nutritionist dietitian, I encourage individuals to be mindful of portion sizes, nutrient content, and ingredient quality when making food choices. By being informed about food labels, we can prioritize our health and well-being through better nutrition.

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NUTRITION

8 “Health Drinks” That Wreck Your Teeth

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Could the choices you make regarding the beverages you drink, choices you thought were supporting the health of your body, actually be harming your teeth? 

You eat nutritious foods. You exercise regularly. You get restful sleep. And, you’ve even traded in unhealthy beverages for healthier options. 

But, just how healthy are those supposed “health drinks” for your teeth? 

There are so many drinks that are marketed as healthy:

  • Some are enhanced with vitamins and minerals. 
  • Some are healthy compared to the beverages they are claimed to be an alternative to. 
  • Some contain probiotics powerful in promoting the health of your gut. 
  • Some boast benefits in the area of physical performance (before, during, and after).
  • Some have been lauded for their benefits to your health for decades. 
  • And, some are fairly new but boast some powerful claims.

And, it’s true that some of those can indeed prove beneficial to certain aspects of your overall health, but how do they stack up in regards to the health of your teeth? 

Many beverages that are considered ‘healthy’ can wreak havoc on your teeth…even your mouth as a whole!

And, the last thing you want to do is consume something that you think is beneficial to one aspect of your health but turns out to be hindering your health in another way…here, your teeth.  

So, what liquids make the list? 

Below are 8 of the top ‘health drinks’ that we’ve found to be detrimental to the health of your teeth. 

1- Fruit juices

Fruit juices are often thought of as healthy drinks, especially for children. 

They are generally seen as healthy alternatives to sugary, artificially colored, and flavored sodas. But, are they really any better than chugging down a pop or any other non-carbonated sugary drink marketed for children (you’re not off the hook here either, adults)?

The sugar content in fruit juices, even those labeled “all-natural” or “100% juice” is extremely high. 

And, sugar is a mortal enemy to your mouth. 

Your mouth is filled with bacteria, and like those in your gut, they are needed. But, also like the bacteria in your gut, you don’t want that mixture of good and bad bacteria in your mouth to tip the scale towards the bad guys. 

Sugar does just that!

Sugar feeds the bad bacteria in your mouth and on your teeth. This increase in bad bacteria creates an acidic environment that erodes the enamel on your teeth and causes tooth decay. 

2- Vitamin Water

Vitamin water is a popular drink touted as healthy. Come on, it says vitamin right in the name! It’s full of vitamins and minerals, and it’s…water! It’s surely not on this list, right?

One problem with vitamin water is that it, too, is loaded with sugar. But, since we just went over those ill effects in reference to fruit juices, I’ll spare you the repeat.

The second problem with this ‘health drink’ is its acid content. Unfortunately, vitamin water isn’t alone here. But, its acidity, in particular, rivals stomach acid. 

Consuming acidic drinks can lead to permanent dental erosion where your teeth lose their structure due to what is known as chemical dissolution from the acids in these types of drinks. 

3- Sports Drinks

I figured we might as well move on to sports drinks now since they are a killer combo of the last two drinks. 

But, athletes use these drinks all the time, so they’ve got to be beneficial, right?

Though they’re often praised for their electrolyte content, promising to replenish needful glycogen and regulate body fluids often lost during vigorous exercise, these drinks can wreak havoc on your teeth! 

As far as sugar, an average 20-ounce bottle of one popular sports drink has a whopping 36 grams. 

The same brand has a pH level of 2.4. As far as the pH scale is concerned, the lower the number, the higher the acidity. 

The enamel on your teeth begins to dissolve at a pH of 5.3. 

In other words, maybe pouring the cooler on the coach’s head is better than drinking the stuff! 

4- Sugar Free

To clear things up right off the bat, we’re not referring to naturally sugar-free beverages like water, tea, or coffee. 

Here, we’re talking about sugar-free varieties of sodas, vitamin waters, sports drinks, and other beverages that are marketed as, and thought to be, a healthier option than their sugar-laden counterparts. 

Many folks reach for these types of beverages thinking they are making a healthy choice, but what can these drinks do to your teeth?

If your sugar-free drink still contains caffeine, and you don’t counteract the effects of caffeine by upping your water intake, this can lead to dehydration. 

When you aren’t properly hydrated, your saliva production is compromised and can lead to dry mouth. 

Saliva plays a crucial role in keeping your mouth from becoming too acidic, and as we learned earlier, an acidic environment in your mouth leads to dental erosion. 

Maybe you’re thinking, my preferred sugar-free beverage isn’t caffeinated, so this doesn’t apply to me. 

Unfortunately, caffeine isn’t the only concern here. Most of the artificial sweeteners that make up sugar-free drinks contain chemicals that soften the enamel on your teeth.

Softened enamel can actually be “brushed away” leaving your teeth vulnerable to cavities as the inner layer of the enamel has been exposed. 

5- Diet Drinks

Just the word diet insinuates that you’re doing something to either improve your health (through nutrition), or you’re replacing a higher calorie version of the food or drink. 

While diet beverages cut down calories, and this generally means cutting out sugar, there are definitely pitfalls with these drinks when it comes to your teeth.

Concerning soda, the diet versions do just as much damage to the enamel of your teeth, causing it to both weaken and dissolve. 

In fact, one study found that diet and sugar-free sodas caused slightly more dental erosion than even regular soda. After two weeks, the findings showed regular soda had caused tooth enamel to dissolve at 2.8mg and diet soda caused 3 mg of enamel erosion. 

6- Dairy Milk

I know you’re shocked at this one, but I promise you’re not being punk’d. 

Though milk has been hailed as the healthiest of drinks, specifically for your bones and teeth, due to its calcium contents, the lactose that is also found in dairy milk can actually harm your teeth. 

Lactose is a type of sugar, there’s no way around it. And, like any other sugar, lactose increases the level of acidity in your mouth, which causes demineralization, damaging your teeth.

7- Kombucha

Okay, this one hurts y’all. Besides being a favorite, kombucha just packs some big gut health benefits by being loaded with probiotics. 

So, I suppose we’ll just have to heap this one into the milk pile then, both being praised for their healthy components, yet potentially causing harm in your mouth. 

In the case of this slightly bubbly, vinegary beverage, acid is the culprit yet again. 

Kombucha is considered to be highly acidic which can wear away the enamel on your teeth, and in the case of this probiotic ‘health drink,’ can lead to a loss of minerals from enamel erosion and tooth sensitivity. 

8- Flavored Water (and sparkling water)

Hydration is key, right? Some health and fitness experts recommend drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. 

Heck, even the popular trainer and P90X creator, Tony Horton will tell you, “Drink your water, people!” 

So, we do! And, to achieve our healthy hydration goals, we often add flavor to the water we drink via powdered, 0-calorie mixes, lemon or lime wedges (or juice), or we opt for sparkling water.

Unfortunately, each of these additions or substitutions can…you guessed it…wreak havoc on your teeth!

Both lemon and lime are highly acidic and over time will cause erosion to tooth enamel.

Flavored mixes contain citric and other fruit acids which remove calcium from your teeth and cause serious erosion.

While unflavored sparkling water is said to not be acidic, flavored sparkling waters can contain the same citric acids, and some flavored waters have proven to be just as acidic as orange juice, causing significant enamel erosion.

Do You Have To Ditch Them All?

Okay, I have to admit, that list brought out a few “NOOOs” from me because I love my sparkling water and kombucha. 

Thankfully, we don’t have to live in a world without our favorites…primarily those favorites that are considered otherwise healthy.

Some of those items, despite the intense marketing efforts behind them, are just no good when it comes to your health, teeth, or otherwise. 

But, what about the ones that promise real benefits to your health, like my beloved kombucha for instance? Probiotics? Gut health, anyone? 

The thing is, we can sometimes take things too far. We love the taste of pizza, and so we can find ourselves overindulging. 

The same is true with foods or drinks that claim to benefit our health.

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing! 

So, if you do find yourself unable to live without LaCroix, for instance, keep moderation at the forefront of your drinking habits and incorporate the following to protect your teeth from the occasional indulgence:

  • Brush your teeth 30-60 minutes after consuming any carbonated “health drink.”
  • Choose water above all else, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! The more water you drink, the less likely you’ll be to consume these other drinks in the first place, but you’ll also ensure adequate saliva production which helps keep pH levels regulated in your mouth.
  • Consume these drinks rarely, with meals, and through a straw to minimize acid exposure.
  • Avoid citrus or fruit flavors which have been known to cause the most damage.

You can also try this “odd” bubblegum that rebuilds gums overnight.

Michael Meyers, a 45-year-old father of 3, was close to giving up… He had struggled with tooth and gum decay for more than 6 years… He’d tried everything, but nothing worked…

Until he found this “odd” bubblegum in one of his son’s drawers and after chewing it, his gums were rebuilt overnight!

He also managed to get rid of his chronic bad breath…

You can see it for yourself right here:

Weird Bubblegum Rebuilds Gums Overnight (100% Tested and Effective)

References: 

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NUTRITION

Fight Free Radical Damage And Disease With Polyphenols

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What does a leafy green salad topped with bright red strawberries and raw walnuts have in common with a glass of red wine? 

How can dark chocolate help you fight damage that occurs within your body on a normal basis? 

Why would your daily cup of joe be considered a disease fighter? 

The answer to each of these questions is: polyphenols. 

Leafy greens, strawberries, walnuts, red wine, dark chocolate, and coffee (sans the sugary additions), are all filled with polyphenols that benefit you in multiple ways! 

So, what are polyphenols, what other foods and/or drinks are they found in, and how can they benefit your body? 

What Are Polyphenols?

Polyphenols are plant compounds. They are nutrients that your body needs in slightly less amounts than basic macronutrients like proteins, carbs, and fats. 

But, what makes polyphenols special? And, why do we need them? 

These micronutrients are a great source of antioxidants, which prevent and counteract damage that occurs within your body from free radicals.

So, let’s break that down a bit. 

Free radicals are molecules in your body that are not stable and can cause harm to your cells. 

They are made when molecules gain or lose electrons as a result of normal metabolic processes that occur on a daily basis. 

When these free radicals cannot be destroyed, they accumulate and cause damage, known as oxidative stress, within your body. 

Such damage is a major contributing factor in autoimmune diseases, cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular diseases.

Polyphenols inhibit certain actions carried out by enzymes that contribute to oxidative stress, thus lessening the damage caused by free radicals. 

Sources Of Polyphenols

The main source for polyphenols? Your diet. 

Eating a diet filled with a variety of spices, herbs, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains can ensure you are fueling your body with antioxidant rich polyphenols.

There are thousands of kinds of polyphenols, but generally they are categorized in only 4 groups. 

Flavonoids

Flavonoids are a class of polyphenols that are primarily found in fruits and vegetables. 

With carotenoids, together they give fruits and vegetables their bright colors. 


Have you ever heard of the advice to “eat the rainbow”? This is why. If you are eating fruits and vegetables with a variety of color, you are ensuring polyphenol consumption. 

Phenolic acid

This group of polyphenols are mainly found in the skin of fruits and the leaves of vegetables. 

Phenolic acids can easily be absorbed through the walls of your gut where they can combat free radical damage. 

Stilbenes 

Stilbenes are not nearly as common as flavonoids and phenolic acids. 

One of two stilbenes is resveratrol, and this is probably the one that you are most familiar with due to its presence in red wine and dark chocolate. 

Who doesn’t love a little wine and chocolate, right? 

So, when you hear of the antioxidant properties of red wine and dark chocolate, those health benefits are due to polyphenols (more specifically, resveratrol, of the stilbene group of polyphenols). 

Lignans

Another group of these micronutrients is known as lignans. These are also primarily found in plants, but they extend further than flavonoids and phenolic acids in that they are also found in numerous seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. 

Here’s a list of some of the main foods (by category) that are rich in polyphenols:

Vegetables– spinach, chicory, endive, broccoli, artichokes, and red onion

Fruits– berries (blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and elderberries), grapes, cherries, plums, apples, and pomegranates

Beans– black and white beans

Nuts and seeds– walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and flaxseeds

Herbs and spices– cloves, star anise, sage, rosemary, dried peppermint, dried spearmint, cumin, thyme, and caraway

Chocolates– dark chocolate and cocoa powder (this one’s our favorite!)

Beverages– red wine, green tea, coffee, and black tea

Grains– oats, whole wheat, and rye

Benefits Of Polyphenols

So, we know that polyphenols combat against damage caused by free radicals in your body. And, we know the primary sources of this micronutrient, but how does that translate to benefits for you? 

  1. We mentioned earlier how polyphenols are a rich source of antioxidants and of their power to combat damage caused by free radicals. This is truly their primary benefit. 

Being filled with antioxidants, studies show polyphenols can protect against chronic diseases linked to oxidative stress. They have also been known to protect against some cancers and diabetes. 

  1. Polyphenols also protect against heart disease. One study found that in those individuals who increased their consumption of flavonoids, their risk of death from heart disease was lowered by 18%.

The antioxidant properties in polyphenols also contribute to reduced chronic inflammation which is a known contributing factor to heart disease as well. 

  1. Polyphenols may lower your risk of developing blood clots as studies have shown that they can reduce an overabundance of platelet aggregation (a cause of blood clotting). 

Resveratrol is one of the most common polyphenols that has been studied, verifying these findings. 

  1. Some studies have found that polyphenols can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. 

Cancer is another disease with its roots in chronic inflammation, which polyphenols have been routinely proven to reduce. And, a reduction in chronic inflammation is always a win for your health! 

  1. Polyphenols also help to maintain a normal blood sugar level

One British study showed that those who increased their consumption of polyphenols, decreased their risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Polyphenols have been known to decrease blood sugar spiking because they are able to prevent the breakdown of starches into simple sugars.

You can gain free radical damage protection and disease fighting “power” by incorporating foods rich in polyphenols into your diet… like my favorite super-chocolate!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need an excuse to eat chocolate.

Chocolate cake…Chocolate ice cream…Chocolate milk shakes…

I love it all!

It’s why I was so excited when I found out about the power of a unique type of Peruvian chocolate. You see, most chocolate is grown over on the west coast of Africa.

But small batches of chocolate also come from the jungles of Peru.

And the difference is incredible.

Peruvian cacao is not only sweet like regular milk chocolate…

It’s also one of the healthiest and highest antioxidant foods on the planet.

Being 12x healthier than blueberries…

16x healthier than kale…

And 37x healthier than even broccoli.

This delicious chocolatey gift has been the food of emperors for nearly 2,000 years.

And the growing process was finally perfected during the late Incan empire.

Which is what gives us this unique Peruvian chocolate that not only tastes delicious, but can also…

* Promote healthy blood sugar

* Reduce free-radicals & fight inflammation, thereby slowing down aging in the body

* Make you fall asleep faster and STAY asleep through the night

* Even help preventing brain aging

It’s no wonder people have been saying things like…

“It has been a wonderful discovery and my body and mind have never been better. My aches and pains are minimal, my gut health has been amazing – gas and cramping is gone!” – Angela Kiesow

“This chocolate is so incredibly delicious, it really feels great to be eating something so healthy and satisfying. I’m losing weight, I feel great, and I have NO food cravings at all during the day!” – Dolores Adkins

“It actually makes me smile every time I eat some, it’s that good! It also gives me energy without the jittery side effects of too much caffeine. I used to get a Starbucks Mocha almost every day, and this healthier drink has taken its place.” – Jennifer Wilson

There is only ONE season a year that they grow this unique South American chocolate…

So make sure you get some BEFORE the end of this year’s growing season.

Find out the details on this page below:

>> This unique Peruvian chocolate is healthier than kale (tastes incredible AND packs more inflammation-fighting antioxidants than any vegetables)

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NUTRITION

The Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Nutrition Labels

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Nutrition labels can be tricky to decipher, but they are an essential tool in making informed decisions about the food we eat. Understanding how to interpret nutrition labels can help you make healthier choices and ensure you are getting the nutrients you need.

Here are the top 10 things you need to know about nutrition labels:

1. Serving Size: The first thing to look at on a nutrition label is the serving size. This tells you how much of the food is considered one serving and how many servings are in the package. Make sure to compare the serving size to the amount you actually eat to calculate the nutritional content accurately.

2. Calories: The next thing to check is the number of calories per serving. This number tells you how much energy you are consuming from the food. It’s important to be mindful of the calories you are consuming, especially if you are trying to manage your weight.

3. Nutrients to Limit: Look for the nutrients to limit, such as saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Consuming too much of these nutrients can increase your risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.

4. Nutrients to Include: On the flip side, pay attention to the nutrients you need to include in your diet, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients are essential for overall health and well-being.

5. % Daily Value (%DV): The %DV on a nutrition label shows how much of each nutrient one serving provides based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Use the %DV to compare products and choose foods that are higher in nutrients and lower in nutrients to limit.

6. Ingredient List: The ingredient list on a nutrition label is listed by weight, with the main ingredients listed first. Be cautious of foods with a long list of ingredients, especially if they contain a lot of added sugars, artificial preservatives, and additives.

7. Added Sugars: The new nutrition labels now include a line for added sugars, which can help you identify foods high in added sugars like soda, candy, and baked goods. Limiting added sugars is important for maintaining a healthy diet.

8. Allergen Information: Nutrition labels also indicate if the product contains common allergens like nuts, dairy, and gluten. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, make sure to check the allergen information before consuming the product.

9. Daily Caloric Intake: Use nutrition labels to help monitor your daily caloric intake and make adjustments to your diet as needed. Keeping track of your calorie consumption can help you achieve your health and weight loss goals.

10. Compare Products: Lastly, use nutrition labels to compare similar products and choose the healthier option. Look for products lower in saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium, and higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

In conclusion, understanding how to read and interpret nutrition labels is essential for making informed decisions about the food we eat. By paying attention to serving sizes, calories, nutrients, and ingredient lists, you can make healthier choices and achieve your health and wellness goals. Take the time to familiarize yourself with nutrition labels and use them as a tool to help you maintain a healthy diet.

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