In our recurring blog series on how to better read and understand food labels, we covered the basics of food label reading during our October post. This month, we will be clearing up the confusion behind Percent Daily Values.
Don’t Be Mislead!
The Percent Daily Value (% DV) on the Nutrition Facts food label represents the amount of nutrients in each serving of that food. Our example label, it shows that one serving of the food contains 4 percent of the vitamin A you need each day.
Keep in mind that these estimates are generated based on a 2,000-calorie diet for a healthy adult.
If your daily calorie intake is lower than 2,000 calories per day, the % DV can still be a useful guide to know if the food you’re eating is high or low in each particular nutrient.
Foods that contain 5 percent daily value or less of a nutrient are considered “low.”
Foods that contain 10 to 19 percent are considered a “good source.”
Foods that contain 20 percent or higher are considered to be high in that nutrient, or an “excellent source.”
Something to be aware of—just because food is labeled as an “excellent source of calcium” or a “good source of vitamin A” does not mean it’s a healthy food choice. This is where % DV tends to be misleading.
Always start with your ingredient list and then review the rest of your food label. Many snack bars, cereals, and other foods are fortified (vitamins added) but list sugar as the first ingredient. Overall, that would not be a healthy food choice!
Something else to keep in mind: three nutrients that have no % DV:
- Trans fat – Trans fat (saturated fat and cholesterol) has been scientifically reported as raising LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. This is said to increase your risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of
death in the United States. Experts have yet to provide a reference value for trans fat or any other information that the FDA believes is a sufficient reason to establish a DV or % DV.
- Protein – Unless the food is meant for infants and children under the age of four, there isn’t a guideline for a % DV for protein. Currently, protein intake is not a public health concern for adults and children over four years old, according to scientific evidence.
- Sugar – Because there are no recommendations for how much sugar should be consumed per day, there is not a designated daily value yet. The key is to be on the watch for added sugars and syrups that do not occur naturally in foods. However, the American Heart Association suggests the following recommendations.
- Children: 12 grams, or about 3 teaspoons
- Women: 20 grams, or about 5 teaspoons
- Men: 36 grams, or about 9 teaspoons
That’s a Wrap!
That wraps up our second segment on reading and understanding food labels! Stay tuned for part three, which will discuss the hidden allergens within our food!
The Busy Mom