It’s time to check nutrition labels properly

Many shoppers in India often don’t look beyond the date of manufacture and expiry on their packaged food and beverages. There’s quite a lot of dense information there to unpack and not many have the time or inclination to check. In reality, these labels carry important details that you should know. Not only is it a good practice, it is a legal mandate. Countries around the world have regulatory bodies that frame and regulate the information that should be printed on packs. You may wonder why the law needs to step in here when this seems like the most basic thing to do. Unfortunately, with a lot of lifestyle diseases linked to excessive consumption of processed foods and drinks, these labels were mandatory. More importantly, there are specific ways in which information should be conveyed. All of this put together will help consumers make informed choices about what they and their loved ones are eating or drinking.

In the US, the FDA is known to regulate label information whereas in India, The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) does so for all packaged foods and beverages.

General label info
Labels on your food and drinks will prominently specify the calories or energy availing per serving (also defined on the pack). This energy is mentioned in kilocalories (kcal). They will also specify quantities of fat, saturates (saturated fat), carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt. All packages will also mention an ingredients list.

A deeper look at labels
While we’re not covering each and every aspect of a label in this blog, we will highlight some important points to keep in mind especially with regards to energy drinks. To understand the context of the figures you read, always keep the serving size mentioned in mind. Remember it is just an indication of the amount that a typical consumer may have at a time but is not a recommendation of how much to have. In the nutrients list, watch out for sodium and added sugars. You want to make sure that these are within limits good for you. For instance, even diet sodas can contain high amounts of sugar and excessive consumption of the same has been linked to obesity and a host of other problems. Always check the numbers and ideally limit your intake to one portion or an amount that is ideal as calculated by you. Sodium is an electrolyte and important for good hydration. However, too much of it can cause various blood pressure related problems. Additionally, look out for vitamins in your pack as they add more to your health and improve immunity.

Limit the caffeine Many carbonated and other energy drinks are heavily loaded with caffeine (and/or additional substances like guarana which is a South American herb that is an additional source of caffeine). Generally, a cup of brewed coffee would have 80mg of caffeine. Some energy drinks may have double that amount.

What should you do now?
As mentioned often, anything in excess can be detrimental to the body. This holds true for natural products and most definitely for packaged ones too. So, here’s how you can continue to consume safely.

● Choose healthy energy drinks. For instance, Prolyte has zero caffeine and scores low on the calorie and sugar score. It is also non-carbonated, has electrolytes, Vitamin C and glucose to give you an energy boost. The formulation has been scientifically designed by the Energy Experts at Cipla Health..
● Limit yourself to recommended servings.
● Work with your nutritionist to know the right amount of calories, nutrients and sugars. You can work this out on your own too with a little research.
● Be active. We cannot emphasise the importance of exercise enough.
● Eat and hydrate right. Energy drinks, supplements and more are not substitutes for food. So, make sure you drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet.

So, use healthy energy drinks post-workout, during travels or at work when you're feeling low on energy or fatigued. They give you the energy you need to keep going longer thereby helping you maintain your productivity and efficiency.

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