New to reading nutrition labels? Want some practice and pointers? Don’t know what to look for? In this series, we are giving a full breakdown of how to analyze a food’s nutrition label. Today? Del Monte SunFresh Mango Chunks.
Note: this is episode 3 in an ongoing series of label-reading practice
Each post increases in difficulty and builds off the previous
1. What Am I Eating?
The first step when reading a label is always to use your brain. Before doing any reading, it’s best to make a quick educated guess or a rough estimate of what you may find on the label.
Examples: Is it really savory? Might be high in salt. Is it sweet? You can bet on sugar. Is it filling? Look for fat.
Making predictions like these will very quickly improve your reading skills, so you can reach a point down the road where you can estimate what’s in your food to a high degree of precision.
In this case, we are dealing with a 1/2 gallon of chopped up mango. It can be found at most supermarkets. Similar to our raisins from episode 1, what should be the first thing coming to your mind? Sugar.
2. Check for Claims
Is there anything on the container meant to entice or warn consumers? Examples: “Low carb,” “High in Calcium,” or “A good source of iron.”
Based on these, even before reading, you can observe how it compares to other products or even other brands of the same food.
For this jar of mango, we can find only one real claim:
- “In extra light syrup”
This is very important, even though it’s in such small font. What some people don’t realize is that this mango is preserved in a syrup, not water. It has added sugar.
3. Read the Ingredient List
Now it’s time to look at the back of the package. As with the yogurt in episode 2, this is an excellent opportunity to learn some new ingredients.
See also: What’s on the Nutrition Label?
- Mango– pretty self-explanatory
- Water– yay!
- Sugar– not yay. Keep in mind that ingredients are listed in descending order by weight.
- This term, to be honest, does not mean much. It simply means... More Flavor– as explained here, that is one of the most ambiguous names possible. Not necessarily good for you, not necessarily bad for you. Not enough info.
- Ascorbic Acid- A fancy name for Vitamin C
- Potassium Sorbate– A very common preservative. Like most artificial sweeteners, is controversial when it comes to its physiological effects.
- Sodium Benzoate– Another preservative, this one is more commonly used in acidic foods (like fruit). Like 99% of manufactured chemicals in food, more research is needed to determine its safety.
- Citric Acid– Colloquially referred to as the “citrus” from lemons, grapefruits, limes, etc. However, it is much cheaper (and therefore done far more frequently) to extract from molds. Although that may sound disgusting, it is considered fairly harmless as far as preservatives go, except with some controversy that it can cause some acid reflux.
- Calcium Chloride– Absorbs, retains, and thickens water. Most likely it was used to make the sugar and water turn
4. Read the Label
We always read the label after the ingredient list. Why? Because most people won’t care about the numbers if they find that the food already has something in it they don’t approve of. This methodology is much more time-efficient.
This will be a quick run-through, because we have a little more experience reading labels.
- The entire container has roughly 7 cups of mango. The nutritional information will be for each 126g, or roughly 1/2 a cup.
But wait, it says “64 fluid ounces” on the front. If you know your Measurement Conversion Chart, that’s 8 cups, not 7. The confusion lies in that manufacturers label only the part of their product that is commonly consumed. The nutritional info given is for the mango plus whatever juice you accidentally scoop up with it. Not the entire container with all its syrup.
See also: How are Nutrients and Calories Rounded?
- 70 calories
- Fat, calcium, iron, cholesterol, protein, and sodium-free.
Not a real shocker. It’s fruit.
See also: Get to Know Your Nutrients
- A little potassium, and 16 grams of carbs. 15 out of those 16 grams is sugar, the remainder is fiber.
Hence why fruits get you energized they’re like nature’s Gatorade.
- Lastly, we have a little Vitamin A, and a ton of Vitamin C.
Remember that Another name for vitamin c.? Some of the vitamin c is naturally from the mango, no doubt. The rest was added as a preservative.
5. The Verdict?
What conclusion did you make? If you ask me, it’s not a bad choice. Whether or not it is “healthy” is subjective. It depends on where you are at and what kind of foods you normally eat.
Say you are a hardcore, organic, super clean, all natural eater that counts every A unit commonly used to measure the amount of energy that is... More and monitors everything down to their electrolyte balance on the daily. You don’t care what you shove in your mouth as long is it is good for you.
For this individual, I would consider this product unhealthy. A better alternative would be to buy whole mangos and prepare them at home. Or if you don’t have the time, buy pre-sliced, but dry, not in a syrup.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have a raging junk food-aholic. Their staple foods are mountain dew, chocolate fudge ice-cream pie, big-macs, and deep-fried pizza. You get the idea, every day is Halloween. To them, I would say this mango would be a great choice.
If you don’t eat fruit on a daily basis, it’s quite reasonable to call these mango chunks healthy.
Thanks for reading!
Canon, Eden. Ethical Foods.com. Processed Food: What You Need To Know About "Citric acid is the compound 2-hydroxy-1,2,3-propanetricarbo... More. 29 December 2015, http://ethicalfoods.com/citric-acid/. Accessed 5 November 2016.