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Closeup of food label

Reading Food Labels

The traditional Hawaiian diet may have been “one of the best in the world.” It was a simple, high starch, high fiber, low saturated fat, low cholesterol, and LOW in SALT. – George Kanahele

While salt is an essential nutrient for all bodily functions, we often eat excess amounts of salt.  Knowing how to read food labels can help keep track of how much salt you are eating. According to the Food and Drug Administration, no more than 2,300 mg of salt is recommended within your daily diet. That amount is equal to one teaspoon of salt.

Eating a low-sodium diet can have many benefits, the most distinguishable being keeping blood pressure at a normal level. Too much salt in a diet will make your body retain fluid, cause excess swelling, make your heart work harder, and could result in extra fluid going into your lungs and affecting your breathing.

Reading food labels is a good way to start monitoring your salt intake.  Review these key points on food labels to help you evaluate your diet and be aware of nutritional factors that can affect your overall health.

  • Serving size: Always remember that one serving size may not always equal one pack or container. Many foods are packaged as multiple servings.
  • Calories: Generally based on a 2,000 calorie/day diet. Excess calories can lead to weight gain and obesity.
  • Total Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium and Total Carbohydrates: While we do need these nutrients for our bodies to work properly, it is important to note that too much sodium and fat can lead to heart disease.
  • Dietary Fiber, Sugars, Protein, Vitamins, Calcium, and Iron: These are good nutrients to incorporate more of, that can help to prevent heart disease.
  • Footnote: Recommended daily values based on a 2,000 calorie/day diet. It is important to remember that all bodies are different, meaning that daily intake values can vary from person to person. A dietitian can help to adjust these values to fit your body needs.