Jason Lui, HK BioTek Nutritionist Intern
In recent decades, more and more people are concerning health. Some even plan their diets according to the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) but most of them are failed. Even though they know how many calories needed per day, they may still have no idea about how many calories their food contains. Thanks to the Nutrition Labeling Scheme, we have more nutritional information about the food.
The Nutrition Labeling Scheme, came into effect on 1st July 2010, requires most prepackaged food to disclose their “1+7” nutrition information, energy and 7 nutrient content including carbohydrate, sugar, protein, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. This allows consumers to eat food wisely. For example, people who want to keep fit can choose food with low fat content.
Energy, expressed in kcal or kJ, indicates the amount of energy that food can provide. The energy can be used to support daily activity.
Carbohydrate is the main source of energy. It includes starch, cellulose, glycogen, and sugars like glucose, fructose and sucrose. Candies, dried fruits and cereals are rich in carbohydrate. Over consumption of carbohydrate may lead to obesity. People who want to control weight should avoid consuming them too much.
Protein constitutes our body structures like muscle and hair. It can also be used to make antibodies, hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters, maintaining normal body function. Protein can be found in egg, cheese, yogurt, beef, chicken, pork etc. People with kidney failure should limit their protein intake while bodybuilder can eat a little bit more.
Total fat includes saturated and unsaturated fat. Trans–fat falls into a sub-category of unsaturated fat. Fat not only provides energy under starvation but also helps to make cell membrane, transmit signal and store fat-soluble vitamin like vitamin A, D, E and K. Cheese, ice-cream, milk, butter and fat portion of meat are common source of saturated fat. Too much saturated fat can increase your waistline. Trans-fat is present in French fries, cookies, creamer and so on. It is associated with heart disease.
Sodium can be interpreted as salt. It contributes to the osmoregulation and neurotic function. Excessive sodium can cause muscle cramps, dizziness, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Instant noodles, cured meat and snacks are rich in sodium. Keeping yourself away from those salty foods can definitely keep you healthier.
The “1+7” nutrition information is very useful in maintaining health when you make all nutrients intake close to DRI. From now on, have a look on the nutrition label before you buy food.