How to read labels

You wonder why should we write about this? However not everybody can read labels on food products correctly, even more less people bother about it.

In case you really care about your health and would like to know what comes to your plate you’d better get into a habit of reading labels. Different countries have different standards to labels and Russian is not an exception. Distributers of food products must point a whole range of information which allows you to identify the quality of a product.

Expiry date, date of issue and storage requirements

The first thing to pay attention to is an expiry date, a date of issue and storage requirements.All these facts are to be pointed at the label. Despite this information is essential it is not always easy to understand what is written on the label. A customer can be confused by numbers on the label moreover there is always a mess between notions ‘ expiry date’ and ‘ sell by date’. In order to be totally confused you should choose the product with clear expiry and sell be dates. It is also important to pay attention to storage requirements as in case of their violations the expiry date severely decreases. The label contains information about applications rules as well ( cooking, warming and recipe).

Calories
The label should contain information on the energy value of the product including how many calories per 100 grams product contains ( note that this is not about ” portion ” , consider weight of a portion) , the composition of macronutrients (proteins , fats and carbohydrates ) and their ratio in the product. Unfortunately, that’s all.
At this stage Russian law doesn’t require distributors to clarify this information in details. However imported products can be found on the Russian market with a detailed description of the energy value that is worth of paying attention to.
If the proteins are simple , fats and carbohydrates are more complex issue including many subtypes any of each has either positive or negative effects on our body.

Carbohydrates: fast carbohydrates ( sugar). In the Western countries a producer should point a quantity of sugar in a product. It was made to show people how much sugar they eat daily as well as paying attention to a quantity of fast carbs their body receives.Fiber or dietary fiber.Producers are also required to indicate the quantity of all carbohydrates comprise dietary fibers, which are extremely important component of a healthy diet. Dietary fiber is complex carbohydrates that are not digested, but has a beneficial effect on the gastrointestinal tract, microflora and the digestibility of macronutrients.

Rule:  a product is supposed to contain the least amount of pure sugar and as much slow carbohydrates and dietary fiber as possible. Pay attention to this information in case the label includes it.

Fats. Essential components: saturated fats, unsaturated fats and trans fats.
Rule: Avoid products with trans fats as long term researches prove the fact of their harmful effect on cholesterol level and cardiovascular system. Prefer products contained unsaturated fats. This type of fats are healthier and includes essential fatty acids necessary for different body functions. In the Western countries the labels usually contain information about micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals and their quantity toward daily rate. For the Russian market these labels are rare.

 Ingredients
Any product label should include information about its ingredients. Energy value indicates only how much energy our body receives, but to make a final decision about purchasing a product we need to see its real ingredients. Thus, for example, sugar substitutes do not contain any nutritional value and don’t add calories to the total energy, but they may have a harmful effect on us. There is a great number of such ingredients, so it is important to pay attention to the product components.
As a rule the ingredients of high quality products are listed in decreasing order of they relative amount in the product. Taking into consideration that the Russian legislation doesn’t obligate to obey – many producers neglect this rule. Moreover the law allows you to omit the components, the amount of which is less than 2% of the product ingredients.

Rule: choose products with the least amount of items; products with clear and recognizable ingredients. Avoid food containing fructose and its derivatives, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil (which is likely to contain trans fats), preservative. Pay attention to low-fat products: in order to maintain consistency and flavor sugar is added.

Contacts of a producer and/ or an importer.
State standart requires all labels to contain information about a company name, a manufacturer, a seller , their addresses and contact details. This is done primarily to protect the market from low-quality products and to have the opportunity to contact the manufacturers. If the product is imported , the label should contain information in Russian , producer country (or country of origin ) . Information about the country of origin is contained in the barcode.

Additional requirements to the labels.
In case dietary supplements ,flavors, flavor enhancers, genetically modified substances, food coloring ingredients with protein (milk) have been used in the production all this should be stated on the packaging.
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