On Speed-reading Nutrition Labels
Do you read nutrition labels? I mean really read them – run down the list, absorb the data about the nutrients, and even stop to read the ingredients. After you look at the label, could you tell a fellow shopper how much, say, fiber the food product contains?
If you do indeed read labels, you know that “fiber” is a subcategory of “Total carbohydrates”; it’s not in bold print, so it may not jump out at you. But it’s a vital nutrient that many Americans get too little of. Adequate fiber intake – 25 grams or, preferably, more every day – can help with all sorts of health issues, from constipation to cholesterol levels to blood sugar control. It can also keep you full longer, if you’re struggling to manage your weight.
It turns out that many of us may not spend the time we need to take in the important information nutrition labels provide. A new European study indicates that, although consumers say they know how to read and understand nutrition labels, most are spending only 25 to 100 milliseconds in the supermarket doing so. That’s pretty fast – a cursory glance, really, which means seeing the information but not really processing it.
Now you’re probably thinking, “I’m in a hurry in the grocery store, and if I treat each box like it’s War and Peace, I’ll end up having no time left to actually prepare dinner.” That’s why you’re tossing boxes into the cart with the most perfunctory of looks at the nutritional content. You know you’re supposed to look, but you just can’t spare the extra milliseconds.
It’s a real dilemma. But from a nutritional standpoint, one good answer is to move away from all those processed food products that trip you up with their added salt and sugar, their red #40 and blue #2. The fact is, whole foods – like those lovely fruits and vegetables that greet you when you first walk into most stores – don’t even require nutrition labels. They’re food as food was intended, fresh and healthful.
So steer your cart along the outer rim of the grocery store and away from the center aisles, where the boxed and frozen foods are shelved. Saving time by not having to read labels is yet one more reason to enjoy whole foods over processed!