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Nutrients on the Nutrition Fact Panel

Nutrients need to be balanced to maintain a healthy diet. We should aim low on fat, cholesterol, and sodium while looking for foods that are high in fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron.

Fat

On the Nutrition Facts panel, total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat will always be listed. They are required. You may also see unsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat.

Although total fat is the amount of all fats in one serving of the food product, the fats listed under it may not equal the total number. This is because not all fats must be reported on the label. In general (based on a 2,000 calorie diet), a person should consume less than 65g of total fat per day.

Saturated fat is
  • solid at room temperature
  • come from animals
A person should consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat each day. In general, this is less than 20g of saturated fat per day.

Trans fats are
  • solid at room temperature
  • synthetic
Scientific research shows that consumption of trans fat raises LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and increases risk for developing heart disease. You may notice that there is no % Daily Value beside trans fat on the Nutrition Facts panel. This is because there is no recommended amount of trans fat. Keep trans fat consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain hydrogenated oils.

Unsaturated fats are
  • liquid at room temperature
  • mainly come from plants and are known as “healthy” fats
Although unsaturated fats are better than saturated or trans fats, we cannot eat an endless supply. In general, a person should limit oils to 6 teaspoons per day.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol itself is not bad. In fact, cholesterol is created and needed by our bodies to keep us healthy. Some cholesterol is produced naturally (this is the type that can be affected by heredity), while some comes from the food we eat.

There are two types of cholesterol – “good” and “bad.” Too much of one type, or not enough of another, can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.

Cholesterol is only found in animal products. In general, a person should consume less than 300 mg of cholesterol from food per day.

Sodium

Sodium is a part of table salt and is found in many processed, canned, and commercially prepared condiments. A high-sodium diet can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, heart disease, heart failure, and kidney disease.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 state that the average person should intake less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. (That is one teaspoon of salt per day.) Persons who are 51 or older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should further reduce sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day.

Fiber

Dietary fiber is a non-digestible form of carbohydrates. Dietary fiber naturally occurs in plants, helps provide a feeling of fullness, and helps promote normal gastrointestinal function.

Dietary fiber that occurs naturally in foods may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. The general recommended amount of dietary fiber is 25g per day for women and 38g per day for men. Most Americans consume only about half the recommended amount.

To increase dietary fiber intake, choose beans, peas, other vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts.

Calcium

Calcium is vital for optimal bone health. Lifelong adequate calcium intake helps maintain bone health by increasing the amount of bone formed in the teen and early adult life and by helping to slow the rate of bone loss that occurs later in life. Low calcium intake is one risk factor for osteoporosis, which is a condition of low bone density that places a person at risk of bone fractures.

Milk and milk products are a main source of calcium for most Americans. Removing milk and milk products from the diet requires careful replacement with other food sources of calcium, including fortified foods. In general, consuming 3 servings of food from the dairy food group, such as 1 cup milk or soymilk, 8 oz yogurt, 2 oz cheese will provide us with an adequate amount of calcium per day.

For more information on these nutrients or the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, visit www.dietaryguidelines.gov.

Author: Hannah Fincham, WVU Monongalia County Families and Health Extension agent
Last Reviewed: May 23, 2017

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