Nutritionist decodes food labels, offers dietary advice at ‘Ask the Expert’ event


Nutritionist Emily Brantley led an "Ask the Expert" event detailing the importance of understanding food labels on Tuesday, July 17 at the Mandarin Y Healthy Living Center in Jacksonville.

Brantley began her presentation by explaining that each component of a typical nutrition label is relevant to most diets, and people should read through them all to know what they’re eating.

First, the nutritionist warned that glazing over the serving size could hinder those who are trying to watch what they eat. For example, Brantley said if the serving size for a particular snack notes four pieces and someone were to eat 47, the contents of the snack would not reflect what the nutrition facts label actually says.

Brantley then warned against consuming trans fat, a type of unsaturated fat, and asserted that it shouldn’t be a regular part of anyone’s diet.

"One thing of note when it comes to trans fats is that it doesn't have a percent daily value on labels because we're not supposed to have it," she said. "It doesn't have a daily value because it's not actually recommended for you to include in your daily life. If you wanted to lower your blood cholesterol you could replace saturated fats and trans fats with the monounsaturated and the polyunsaturated fats."

Later, Brantley explained that sodium should be consumed in segments throughout the day, and too much of it could lead to excessive water retention and other health problems.

"For heart health, we always want to make sure that the sodium content per serving is less than 200 milligrams per serving," she said. "Sodium is very easy to get too much at one time. The recommendation for sodium for your heart health is about 2,300 milligrams per day."

Brantley also said that people should analyze the potassium content listed on a nutrition label, especially those with certain ailments.

"If you have cardiac history or if you have kidney disease or failure, you really want to be mindful of the potassium content you have," she said. "Times where we would need more potassium and sodium is after a good sweat session because you end up depleting yourself of the sodium and potassium."

Regarding vitamins, Brantley warned against relying solely on supplements for vitamin intake because nutrition supplements are not governed by the Food and Drug Administration.

Additionally, the nutritionist contended that people should avoid foods with a long ingredient list on the label, especially if the list features words that aren't easy to pronounce. In such cases, Brantley said the item is likely full of artificial elements, added sugars and harmful preservatives.

Brantley concluded her presentation by urging attendees to always read the nutrition facts on food labels, be aware of false advertising on packages and be mindful about the elements they’re putting into their bodies.