Our Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for generating the template information required on packaged foods. The Daily Value is a simple ratio based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. The FDA will recommend certain Macronutrients fall within a certain percentage of your daily calories (using 2,000 as our ratio), and recommends Micronutrients and other measurements fall within a certain percentage of daily intake.
Total Fat simply means in one serving, the fat content will be comprised of Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, and may even go so far as to break down further into Polyunsaturated Fat, and Monounsaturated Fat. These are here for reference because some Fats are good for you (Unsaturated Fat) while some can be more risky (Saturated Fat). Saturated fat should remain fairly low in our day to day lives because this type of fat can raise our “bad” cholesterol (LDL), which can lead to Diabetes or Heart Disease. Saturated fat comes from animal products, while Unsaturated fat comes from plant products.
Unsaturated fat is good for us since fats are a dense energy source, and with this added appetite suppression, can indirectly help us manage our blood sugar.
If I were eating a fresh slice of Zebra, I should be wary of Saturated Fat, and perhaps choosing a leaner cut (sirloin) over a fattier cut (ribeye) will help me stave off having too much “bad” fat.
Per the American Heart Association’s website:
“Cholesterol comes from two sources. Your body (specifically your liver) makes all the cholesterol you need. The rest you get from foods from animals. For example, meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products contain cholesterol (called dietary cholesterol). More importantly, these foods are high in saturated and trans fat. That’s a problem because these fats cause your liver to make more cholesterol than it otherwise would. For some people, this added production means they go from a normal cholesterol level to one that’s unhealthy.
Some tropical oils, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil, also can trigger your liver to make more cholesterol. These oils are often found in baked goods.”
If enough bad cholesterol (Low-Density Lipoproteins—LDL) accumulates in the arteries, we’ll have plaque build-up, leading to blood pressure issues, less arterial vascularity, and the potentiality for a greater-likelihood of cardiac-related events.
Now that I’m finished terrifying you… stressing about Cholesterol is much less productive than, say, choosing the majority of your food sources with less cholesterol content—plant-based products and non-meat products.
We’ve been taught to fear sodium, and while we shouldn’t, there’s value in being hesitant regarding how much sodium intake we have.
Sodium is a mineral and electrolyte, which helps us maintain proper nerve function (as part of why we “hydrate”). Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, though, and it’s fairly easy to ingest lots of it if the majority of our diet comes out of a bag, box, or fast-food restaurant. If I had to give you a cheat-sheet regarding sodium, it’s simply: “Increase allowable sodium intake dependent on activity level.”
What this means is, if we’re inactive often (sedentary), having a low-sodium intake is healthy and helps us avoid negative health issues associated with increased sodium intake (hypertension; increased blood-pressure). As we increase activity, increase allowable sodium intake, as it’s necessary for adequate hydration and performance.
Potassium is much more difficult to ingest “too much” of since it’s hard to come by in most foods. However, it’s also a necessary electrolyte and our need of it increases as our sodium intake increases, so perhaps we should focus on getting a little bit more than just eating whatever comes our way. How? Try eating more fruit and vegetables. For more information, check out this link:
So there you have it. Moderation is important, and knowing what you’re getting in food is just as important-er. We can make educated decisions without cutting things out completely, as an “all-or-none” mindset is intermittently successful.
Next time, we’ll discuss Carbohydrates and Protein—and it may come as a surprise… but you may actually be eating enough protein.
Until next time!