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Put labels to good use

Labels provide a wealth of nutritional information, but sometimes you need to know how to interpret the data. The nutritional breakdown of a food lists the amount of fat, carbohydrates and protein in grams. Fat is a more concentrated form of calories, containing 9 calories a gram compared with 4 calories a gram for carbohydrates and protein.

The American Heart Association suggests that no more than 30 percent of the day's total calories come from fat. To translate grams into a more meaningful term, use this formula: Multiply the number of grams of fat by 9 (a gram of fat contains 9 calories). Divide the number of fat calories by the total number of calories in a serving. The resulting number is the percent of fat calories in a serving of the food.

Example: One cookie (a serving size) contains 80 calories and 4 grams of fat. Divide the fat calories (36 calories) by the total number of calories (80) to find that the cookie derives 45 percent of its calories from fat.

Sources of sodium go beyond ordinary table salt. When reading labels, look for the words "soda" and "sodium" to identify products that contain sodium compounds. Here are some common additives that contain sodium:

Salt (sodium chloride).

Monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer.

Baking soda and powder, used to leaven breads and cakes.

Disodium phosphate, used as a flavoring agent, to control the degree of acidity or to keep mixtures from separating.

Sodium alginate, used to keep mixtures smooth.

Sodium benzoate, a preservative.

Sodium hydroxide, used to loosen skins of some fruits and vegetables.

Sodium nitrite, used to cure meats.

Sodium propionate, used to inhibit the growth of molds.

Sodium sulfite, a bleaching agent and preservative. Some people are allergic to sulfites.

Ingredients are listed in descending order of quantity, beginning with the predominant ingredient. Depending on the product, sugar may turn up in the ingredient list many times in different forms. Find an ingredient that ends in "-ose," and you can bet it is a form of simple sugar.

The following is a list of the types of sugar used in foods:

Sugar _ beet, granulated, cane, brown, raw.

Corn syrup, a sweetener composed of glucose.

High-fructose corn syrup, a derivative of corn syrup in which an enzymatic process converts some of the glucose in corn syrup to fructose.

Glucose, dextrose, fructose (a natural sugar found in fruits and honey), lactose (milk sugar), maltose (malt sugar).

Honey.

Maple sugar or maple syrup.

Molasses.

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