CaloriesMaria Savenko/ShutterstockSeems obvious that calories count, right? But the calories and serving size aren't always easy to understand. First, here's a guide to making sense of nutrition labels. "The serving size is meant to represent the average quantity that people eat. However, this can be misleading," says Jaime Lehman, RD, CDE, Diabetes Program Coordinator for Banner Health. If a serving size is one slice of bread and you eat two, you have to multiply all the nutrition numbers by two—including calories. Being overweight or obese can mean a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. "Reducing weight by 5 to 7 percent can significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes," says Kayla Jaeckel, RD, a certified diabetes educator at Diabetics and Cardiovascular Alliance, Mount Sinai Health System. The amount of calories needed daily varies on factors such as activity level and basal metabolic rate. Thankfully, the Food and Drug Administration is requiring new labels on most packaged foods by July 2018. Among other things, the new labels will be consumer friendly, featuring the calorie and serving size information more prominently.
FiberAndrey Starostin/ShutterstockFiber isn't just something to think about when you're constipated. There's a lot more to fiber than eating prunes to get things moving again. People who eat a fiber-rich diet tend to weight less. Fiber takes longer to digest, so you'll feel fuller longer. And fiber plays a key role in decreasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. "Fiber is associated with increased insulin sensitivity and decreased spikes in blood sugar after eating," says Jaeckel. When you're reading the nutrition label, Jaeckel recommends choosing foods that have at least three grams of fiber per serving. Natural sources such as fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes are the best options. You may've seen products on grocery shelves that claim, "With added fiber," or "Now with more fiber." Eating these may seem like an easy way to reach your fiber goals of 25 to 30 grams a day, but the kind of fiber in these products can cause tummy trouble. "Although these fibers may offer similar benefits, they may not be well tolerated in large doses, so introduce these into your diet slowly," advises Lehman. Unfortunately, the label doesn't specify whether the fiber is naturally occurring or added, but you can take a closer look at the ingredient list to figure it out. "If you see items such as chicory root extract, inulin, pectin, cellulose, resistant starch, you will know that fiber has been added to the product," says Lehman.
SugarFascinadora/ShutterstockMost of us are eating way more sugar than you'd think, and having a sweet tooth isn't just bad for your pearly whites. Annie House, RD, CDE, clinical program specialist for the Diabetes and Endocrinology/Diabetes Education at Spectrum Health says studies suggest that diets higher in sugar are linked to type 2 diabetes. "According to the dietary guidelines for Americans it's recommended that less than 10 percent of calories per day come from added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories per day for women and 150 a day for men," says House. Once again, deciphering the label is tricky: Sugar isn't separated into natural and added sugars. But there are a couple ways to decode the label. One is the ingredient list. "The ingredients are listed in order based on weight with the highest first, so food products with sugar listed closer to the top of the ingredient list are generally higher sources of added sugar," says House. In addition, if you see ingredients such as fructose, sucrose, glucose, dextrose, Maltose, corn syrup, malt syrup, agave nectar, corn sweetener, and high fructose corn syrup, you know sugar has been added to sweeten to the food.
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