Food labels are important tools to help people make healthy choices about the foods they eat. The nutritional facts on a food label provide important information about the calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in the food item. The label also shows the nutrient content per serving, which can help you compare the nutrition of different products.

While most of us are familiar with the federally mandated nutrition label, there is a wide array of additional labels available to consumers, including the simple front-of-pack Facts Up Front label from the American Heart Association; the for-profit Guiding Stars developed by the Hannaford grocery chain; and the Symbol of Quality label from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s NuVal system. In addition, some food producers use unique labels such as ‘Best if Used by’, ‘Enjoy by’ and ‘Fresh through’ dates to indicate when a product will be at its best or may begin to lose its freshness.

Using the information on food labels, individuals can optimize their health by eating more nutrient-dense foods and reducing the amount of high-fat and high-saturated fat foods they consume. They can also avoid consuming too much sodium, which is linked to hypertension and other chronic diseases.

A recent study analyzing the effects of food-label changes found that while reading nutrition labels is not widely practiced (5% of participants claimed to never read them), it does appear to be one of the most valuable ways to make healthier choices in a grocery store. The most important thing, however, is to focus on increasing the presence of key nutrients that support a wholesome diet and help prevent chronic diseases. food labels

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