A man's guide to food labels

Many men do not read or understand food labels. Here are some tips. Photo: AP/ food labels

WASHINGTON, August 20, 2013 — Men pay far less attention to nutritional information and understand it less than women. A few tips go a long way, particularly if trying to build muscle.

When a food label says ‘sodium’ it means salt. Consuming more than 2,000 milligrams (mg on the label) is unhealthy. Calculate the amount of sodium or salt is in each serving. Beware, however, that the typical “serving size” noted on the label is far less than the amount most people eat. A serving size of soda, for example, is eight ounces. That is the size of a tea cup. Who drinks a tea cup of soda?

Calories not only count but are the key to losing or gaining weight. Total calories is the sum game and every label is based on 2,200 calorie per daily intake. That 2,200 is rarely enough for an active man to remain healthy. About 2, 800 is good for the average active man.

A calorie is a measure of heat. For nutrition, 3, 500 calories is a pound. If you eat 4,000 calories a day and burn off 2,000 a day, well, you can always make some money playing Santa at the mall.

The reverse will enable you to lose weight.

Fat measurements on labels can be confusing. There are good and bad fats. Look for the total fat content and make sure the saturated fats are 1/3 or less of the total fat.

Cholesterol is necessary to survive but too much can clog your arterial plumbing. Try to keep your total cholesterol at 300 mgs daily.

Fiber comes in two forms; soluble and insoluble. Insoluble means the fiber is not absorbed but still digested. It helps with lower level plumbing by moving things along. Soluble means the fiber is absorbed and will not help you feel fuller or help your intestines stay active.

Keep it simple and just stick with labels that say two to five grams or more per serving.

The biggie is sugar. The name ‘sugar’ can be disguised as sucrose, fructose, lactose, dextrose, maltose or any word that ends with ‘tose’. Sugar is sugar is sugar. One secret diabetics know is fruit sugar, or fructose, is as bad as table sugar particularly the so-called water fruits such as pears, plums, peaches etc.

Percentages of vitamins and minerals can also be confusing as they are listed by percentage per serving and unless you plan on eating the entire package, forget those measurements and take a supplement.

Be careful, though. Men do not need iron supplements. Post mortem studies show men with high quantities of iron in their system have hardened heart muscles so pick a vitamin designed for men. Most will have no or very little iron.

The ingredients are listed based on how the product is sold. Most foods are sold by weight, so the ingredients are generally listed in descending order of predominance or the heaviest to the lightest.

Protein builds muscle. This is not to say one can eat 4,000 in protein then sit in a chair all day and get ripped. Protein can be found in nuts, peanut butter, light meats (No red, please-ever) and fish. A good protein drink helps if meat is not your personal menu.

One last very important tip: forget soda. A large soda can have 12 to 16 teaspoons of sugar and if you are diabetic, forget diet soda as well. The faux sugar fakes out the pancreas to secrete insulin and messes with the entire insulin/sugar balance your body struggles to maintain.


Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer, a nutritionist and a member of the American psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science




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