Public Health is…Not Sweating the Small Stuff

In America, when discussing health, the morbidly obese elephant in the room is the over consumption of calories. This over consumption leads to about 2/3 of our population being overweight or obese. Obesity is very complicated.  While this blog will not attempt to discuss obesity in its entirety, it is important to point out 1 commonly misconstrued piece of consumer information impacting our calorie consumption – nutrition facts label.

The Nutrition “Fallacy” Labels

If you were trying to lose weight you might look at the Nutrition Facts Label – the labels found on food packaging. These labels may seem quantified and straightforward, but that is far from the truth.

Fallacy 1The percentages for your daily value are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Most males above the age of 18 eat closer to 2,500 calories.  This means that unless you carry your calculator around with you and know how many calories you consume daily, these numbers can’t tell you exactly what you need.

Fallacy 2The numbers are rounded. As a result, as long as a food item contains less than .5 grams of fat, it can list 0 grams.

Fallacy 3The numbers are estimated. This is especially true when it comes to fruits and vegetables. For example, a tomato grown in nutrient rich soil is going to have more nutrients than a tomato grown in nutrient depleted soil.

Fallacy 4All nutrients are not created equal. For many nutrients such as protein,1 gram on 1 label is not equal to 1 gram on another. Protein on the label represents hundreds of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Our body needs a certain amount of the different amino acids. Some foods, such as eggs, do a really good job of providing the different amino acids we need in the correct amounts. Other foods, such as wheat, do not do as a good of a job.

If you were relying on the nutrition label for solid numbers, think again.

It should be used as a guide for comparison or to let you know if you are on the right track. Now that you know to use your nutrition labels as guides, what should you focus on?

If you ask this nutritionist about dropping some pounds, I recommend eating more vegetables and fiber, and cutting back on red meat and saturated fat. It isn’t a new exotic fruit, it isn’t sexy, it isn’t fun, but it works for most people.

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11 thoughts on “Public Health is…Not Sweating the Small Stuff

    1. I would be careful with my expectations. On their website they say that it will help you loose weight without difficult dieting or exercise which is a big red flag. However, there is sufficient peer reviewed journals indicating that milk and other dairy products (which are reduced in the paleo diet) do contribute to acne.

  1. Beautiful post, sir. You speak the boring, yet blunt truth when you say that the best diet is a balanced diet with vegetables and fiber. I have taken notice and worked to improve my diet using those exact guidelines. However, I notice when I eat lots of fiber I get a lot of action in my spleen.

  2. I’ve never trusted nutrition “facts.” In all seriousness, this article has been a great help in increasing my understanding of this component of buying food. Would you say it is more important to look at the ingredients rather than looking at the nutrition facts? Or both are important (knowing that the facts don’t tell the whole story), just in different ways.

    1. I would look at both but use them both as guides. The ingredients are listed in decending order by predemoninance in weight. This is especially helpful in determining how processed the food is, and can help you look for certain nutrient benefits. If you are trying to get whole grains, you can look at the ingredients to make sure it the number one ingredient in your bread.

  3. Excellent post! No need to check the nutrition “facts” on an organic, locally grown cucumber. No need to worry about the preservatives in a handful of juicy wild strawberries. I can’t say that I will be giving up red meat any time soon, because–as an earlier poster claimed–I am always trying to consume as much protein as physically possible. But I will always opt for the locally farmed, hormone-free, pastured, happy cow over the cheap pink slime Costco beef.

  4. Interesting stuff! I had no idea that the numbers were rounded. I wonder if any food companies game the system and use 0.49 of things they don’t want displayed.

    Do you know if there is a way to tell whether a fruit/vegetable is more or less nutrient rich?

    1. First I would look at it to make sure it looks vibrant and fresh as usual. Besides that you will probably need a lab to see, but on average organic fruits and vegetables tend to have more nutrients because with less pesticides they need to be grown in higher quality soil. Thanks for your questions Dan!

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