What are the 'Nutrition Facts'?

nutrition_label.jpgHave you ever wondered what you're really eating in that Fruit Roll-up, bowl of ice cream, or Twinkie? It's easy to find out. All you have to do is read the nutrition facts on the products food label.

The nutrition facts section is usually located on the outside of the package and is easy to read. This section of the food label gives you information about specific nutrients in the product, including calories, fats, protein, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals. Besides the nutrients, two other important factors are listed such as serving size and serving per container. For example, having five Ritz crackers at 80 calories per serving is not bad for a snack. But who eats just five crackers? If you had 15 crackers, you'd consume 240 calories, which is probably too many, especially for those who are watching what they eat.

Here is a look at what these other terms mean:


is found mainly in meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. The cholesterol found in food can increase the cholesterol in your blood, but saturated fats have a greater impact than dietary cholesterol.

Saturated fat

comes primarily from foods of animal origin such as dairy products, meat, butter, cheeses, poultry, and luncheon meats. It is also found in tropical oils such as coconut and palm oils. Choose nonfat or low-fat dairy, lean meats, and skinless poultry to reduce saturated fat intake. Too much saturated fat can raise the cholesterol level in the blood and increase the risk of heart disease.

Trans fats

are formed during a manufacturing technique that turns liquid oils into partially solid products. These fats are in vegetable shortening, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, salad dressings, and other processed foods. Eating too many trans fats raises the cholesterol level in the blood.

Polyunsaturated fat

comes from many plant foods, nuts, seeds, some plant oils (sunflower, corn, soybean), some seafood (herring, salmon, mackerel, halibut), and soybeans. Polyunsaturated fat is a healthy fat and includes heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Monounsaturated fat

comes from some plant foods, including olives and olive oil, canola oil, peanuts, and avocados. New research suggests that these fats help reduce your risk of heart disease.

To the right of the "Nutrition Facts" are the Daily Value percentages. The Percent (%) Daily Value indicates how much of a certain nutrient one serving of the food contains, compared to the recommended amount of that nutrient you should have for the entire day.

The percentages next to each nutrient -- such as fat, sodium, fiber, protein -- can help you determine whether a food is "high" or "low" in that nutrient. And 5% or less is considered to be "low," while 20% or higher is "high." For example, the Dietary Fiber is 0%, or "low," in Ritz crackers.