Living Columns & Blogs

Forget nutrition facts ... how about those ingredients?

When you choose foods made of natural ingredients as seen with this salad mix label, you really don't have to worry about the Nutrition Facts.
When you choose foods made of natural ingredients as seen with this salad mix label, you really don't have to worry about the Nutrition Facts. Special to The Telegraph

What’s in the food you’re eating on a daily basis?

Before you answer, understand that I’m not asking about the amounts of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. I’m not concerned with how much salt or sugar are in the food, either. I’m not even concerned about the vitamins and minerals.

What I’m talking about is not the information in the Nutrition Facts on the label of your food, but rather, the information below the Nutrition Facts, also known as the ingredients list. What you find there is much more important than anything you will ever read from the Nutrition Facts block.

Here is some food for thought. Our culture is very much a science-based culture. We evaluate every aspect of life by the metrics and measurements that we can take. Meteorologists, for example, estimate future weather patterns by the measurements taken by satellites and other instruments. Physicians determine whether you have hypertension or Type 2 diabetes based on arm cuff blood pressure measurements and A1C blood test measurements, respectively.

Similarly, we determine how healthy our foods are by the amounts of the various macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, sugars, sodium, etc.) indicated on the label. Viewing such measurements as indicators of health benefits is hardly accurate though. Why? Because foods are far more than merely the sum of their macronutrients.

If all that mattered about food was the macronutrients, then why eat food? It would appear that you should be able to go to the nearest supplement store, buy a multivitamin, a tub of protein and maybe a jar of coconut oil (for fat) and just take those every day for the rest of your life.

Why shouldn’t it work? You’re getting vitamins and minerals, fat and protein, and your carbs are really low. These are our society’s standards for healthy, and yet, I’m sure you probably see my point now. There’s something that seems inherently wrong and even life threatening about trying to live solely on supplementation.

Let’s go back to the ingredients discussion. You can find out very quickly if a food you are eating is actually worth eating by thinking about the following questions when you look at the ingredients list:

Is the ingredients list long? If it takes up the whole side of the package, you might as well leave it on the shelf and keep walking, because you can be certain that it is filled with colorings, fillers and other chemicals that were never meant to be consumed by your body.

Is each ingredient a “real” thing? You can’t go out to your garden and pick some aspartame, potassium bromate or sodium nitrate. Take a look at the ingredients list in the picture, which I cut from a bag of salad mix. You could pick each of those ingredients out of a garden.

The existence of highly processed food is really the reason we pay so much attention to Nutrition Facts these days. But what you’ll notice is that if the ingredients list on the food you’re eating contains all natural foods, the Nutrition Facts will take care of themselves.

Peach County resident Shawn McClendon is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and owner of the health/fitness blog Contact him at