Nutrition labels are standardized in the United States. They contain lots of good information. Understanding how to properly interpret them makes it possible for people to make better and more informed decisions about what they eat. Knowing how to read a nutrition label can help people improve their health and physical well-being.


All nutrition labels follow the same format. They lead off with the most important information at the top. That’s where the serving size, number of servings per package and calories per serving are listed. The word calories is short for kilocalories. Calories measure energy. One calorie is defined as the energy required to raise a gram of water by one degree Celsius. Calories tell consumers how much energy is provided by the food they’re eating. Typically, it’s expected that adults will need about 2,000 calories per day. Any percentages on the label are calculated with that number in mind.


Important macronutrients like fats, carbohydrates and protein are represented on nutrition labels, too. It’s best to have a mix of these sources of calories in the diet. At different times, there are fads surrounding these types of nutrients. Sometimes fats are considered bad, other times carbs are. Sometimes people eat far too much protein because of the benefits they believe it provides. The truth is that all of these should be consumed in moderation.


Another bolded item on nutrition labels is sodium content. Basically, sodium is salt. A little sodium in the diet is fine, but too much has been linked to issues like high blood pressure. Ensuring that sodium intake is low-to-moderate is a great way to look after heart health. Cholesterol, too, is a type of nutrient that should be limited where possible.


Finally, the nutrition label provides information about vitamins and minerals that are present in the given food product. These are presented in two forms. First, there’s the number of grams or micrograms. Secondly, the percentage of the suggested daily value is listed. For example, if there’s 8 mg of iron in a food, that is 45% of the suggested daily value for an adult. It’s a good idea to remember that these daily values are based on an average adult. The figures for children and pregnant women will be different.