Reading Nutrition Labels on a Low Cholesterol Diet
You've been a good patient. You took the advice from your doctor, started exercising, and keep to a diet in order to control your cholesterol and get healthy. But could misleading food labels be sabotaging your efforts to get healthy?
The FDA maintains strict guidelines for the wording of labels on food items. But, even with those guidelines, claims of "calorie-free" or "low-fat" can be confusing to consumers. People who are on strict diets for health reasons need to be especially savvy when decoding label linguistics.
What It Says: Free
What It Means: When a label advertises that it is "fat-free" or "calorie-free," then the food contains a very small amount of the nutrient. A fat-free food can contain up to .5 grams of fat per serving; a calorie-free food can contain up to 5 calories per serving.
What It Says: Low
What It Means: "Low-cholesterol" or "low-sodium" foods contain relatively low amounts of the advertised nutrient as suggested by a normal diet. These are the FDA guidelines for use of the word "low," listed per serving size:
- Low saturated fat: Less than 1 gram
- Low fat: Less than 3 grams
- Low cholesterol: Less than 20 milligrams and less than 2 grams of saturated fat
- Low sodium: Less than 140 milligrams
- Low calorie: Less than 40 calories
What It Says: Lean
What It Means: For meat, poultry, and seafood, lean means that the meat contains less than 10 grams of fat, less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving. Extra-lean meats contain less than 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving.