09/13/2011 08:04 EDT | Updated 11/13/2011 05:12 EST

Is the Nutrition Label Misleading You?

The government regulates the information on the label, right? There are things you need to know about what's missing or misleading on a food label that could be affecting your health.

Knowing what to look for and carefully comparing products that look similar but are very different will stand you in good stead not matter what category of food you are choosing.

1. The serving size. Be sure you know the serving size is not necessarily the recommended amount that you should eat but that it is a reference number upon which everything else rests.

2. Percentage of Daily Value. The daily values for fat, carbohydrates and protein are for a 2,000 calorie reference diet, which I believe to represent an average person. And you might not be average. So much can affect how many calories are right for you. Be sure that you know how many calories are right for you, your number could be higher or lower.

3. The word "colour." Currently, in Canada most food labels only need to list the word "colour" to denote food colours. Certain artificial food colours have shown to cause hyperactive behaviour in some children and allergic reactions, the Government of Canada says, as well as asthma. If it's in there, you have a right to know which one it is so you can track reactions and be sure to avoid the ingredient. This stipulation is currently under review but even if it is overturned, don't expect the makers of packages to be asked to move quickly to change, it will likely be voluntary for a while.

4. Slippery sodium. Health Canada estimates that 88% of the salt we consume is added during food manufacturing or preparation, so simply putting away the salt shaker isn't the solution. I believe packages contain a "% Daily Value" amount that is too high so it obscures the facts. Many health care professionals recommend around 1,500 mg per day as a maximum. Nutrition labels allow 2,400 mg per day (the Canadian average for adult males is around 3,300). I would advise that this is a percentage that you stay well below. There are ways to reduce your sodium , but in the meantime, read every package.

5. 'Important nutrients.' Usually there are only 13 "important nutrients" listed on a label. But I think a healthy diet contains much, much more. If a piece of fruit listed all of its nutrients, the label would wrap around it many times over. Most of your nutrients will actually be coming from whole foods... I think that this should be where most of your calories come from.

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