Health Topics

Food and nutrition

Food Labeling
National Library of Medicine
Nutrition Labeling

All packaged foods and beverages in the U.S. have food labels. These "Nutrition Facts" labels can help you make smarter food choices and eat a healthy diet.

Before you read the food label, you should know a few things:

  • Serving size is based on how much people usually eat and drink at one time
  • Number of servings tells you how many servings are in the container. Some labels will give you information about calories and nutrients for both the whole package and each serving size. But many labels just tell you that information for each serving size. You need to think about the serving size when you decide how much to eat or drink. For example, if a bottle of juice has two servings and you drink the whole bottle, then you are getting twice the amount of sugar that is listed on the label.
  • Percent daily value (%DV) is a number that helps you understand how much of a nutrient is in one serving. Experts recommend that you get certain amount of different nutrients daily. %DV tells you what percentage of the daily recommendation you get from one serving of a food. With this, you can figure out if a food is high or low in a nutrient: 5% or less is low, 20% or more is high.

The information on a food label can help you see how a certain food or drink fits into your overall diet. The label lists, per serving,

  • The number of calories
  • Fats, including total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Carbohydrates, including fiber, total sugar, and added sugar
  • Protein
  • Vitamins and Minerals

Food and Drug Administration


Food Labeling
Food and Nutrition
All packaged foods and beverages in the U.S. have food labels. These "Nutrition Facts" labels can help you make smarter food choices and eat a healthy diet. ...
Nutrition for Seniors
National Library of Medicine
Seniors' Nutrition

Food provides the energy and nutrients you need to be healthy. Nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.

Studies show that a good diet in your later years reduces your risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart diseases and certain cancers. As you age, you might need less energy. But you still need just as many of the nutrients in food. To get them

  • Choose a variety of healthy foods
  • Avoid empty calories, which are foods with lots of calories but few nutrients, such as chips, cookies, soda and alcohol
  • Pick foods that are low in cholesterol and fat, especially saturated and trans fats

Saturated fats are usually fats that come from animals. Look for trans fat on the labels of processed foods, margarines and shortenings.

NIH: National Institute on Aging


Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
Nutrition Disorders
Seniors
Food and Nutrition
Food provides the energy and nutrients you need to be healthy. Nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. Studies show ...
Nutrition
National Library of Medicine
Food Additives
Healthy Eating

Food provides the energy and nutrients you need to be healthy. Nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Healthy eating is not hard. The key is to

  • Eat a variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products
  • Eat lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and low-fat dairy products
  • Drink lots of water
  • Limit salt, sugar, alcohol, saturated fat, and trans fat in your diet

Saturated fats are usually fats that come from animals. Look for trans fat on the labels of processed foods, margarines, and shortenings.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Nutrition Disorders
Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
Food and Nutrition
Wellness and Lifestyle
Food provides the energy and nutrients you need to be healthy. Nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Healthy eating ...
Food Safety
National Library of Medicine

Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage can prevent foodborne illness. There are four basic steps to food safety at home:

  • Clean - always wash your fruits and vegetables, hands, counters, and cooking utensils.
  • Separate - keep raw foods to themselves. Germs can spread from one food to another.
  • Cook - foods need to get hot and stay hot. Heat kills germs.
  • Chill - put fresh food in the refrigerator right away.

In the grocery store, avoid cans that are bulging or jars that have cracks or loose lids. Check packages to be sure food hasn't reached its expiration date.

United States Department of Agriculture


Food Safety
Food and Nutrition
Poisoning, Toxicology, Environmental Health
Safety Issues
Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage can prevent foodborne illness. There are four basic steps to food safety at home: Clean - always wash your ...
Vegetarian Diet
National Library of Medicine
Vegan Diet
Vegans

A vegetarian diet focuses on plants for food. These include fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, grains, seeds and nuts. There is no single type of vegetarian diet. Instead, vegetarian eating patterns usually fall into the following groups:

  • The vegan diet, which excludes all meat and animal products
  • The lacto vegetarian diet, which includes plant foods plus dairy products
  • The lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which includes both dairy products and eggs

People who follow vegetarian diets can get all the nutrients they need. However, they must be careful to eat a wide variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs. Nutrients vegetarians may need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12.

United States Department of Agriculture


Vegetarians
Diet, Vegetarian
Food and Nutrition
A vegetarian diet focuses on plants for food. These include fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, grains, seeds and nuts. There is no single type of ...
Child Nutrition
National Library of Medicine
Nutrition, Child
Teen Nutrition

A healthy diet helps children grow and learn. It also helps prevent obesity and weight-related diseases, such as diabetes. To give your child a nutritious diet

  • Make half of what is on your child's plate fruits and vegetables
  • Choose healthy sources of protein, such as lean meat, nuts, and eggs
  • Serve whole-grain breads and cereals because they are high in fiber. Reduce refined grains.
  • Broil, grill, or steam foods instead of frying them
  • Limit fast food and junk food
  • Offer water or milk instead of sugary fruit drinks and sodas

Learn about your children's nutrient requirements. Some of them, such as the requirements for iron and calcium, change as your child ages.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Adolescent Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
Child Nutrition Disorders
Children and Teenagers
Food and Nutrition
A healthy diet helps children grow and learn. It also helps prevent obesity and weight-related diseases, such as diabetes. To give your child a nutritious ...
Sodium
National Library of Medicine
Dietary Sodium
Hyponatremia
Salt

Table salt is a combination of two minerals - sodium and chloride Your body needs some sodium to work properly. It helps with the function of nerves and muscles. It also helps to keep the right balance of fluids in your body. Your kidneys control how much sodium is in your body. If you have too much and your kidneys can't get rid it, sodium builds up in your blood. This can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to other health problems.

Most people in the U.S. get more sodium in their diets than they need. A key to healthy eating is choosing foods low in sodium. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that most adults eat less than 2.3 grams per day. That equals about 1 teaspoon of table salt a day. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of salt than others and should eat less. This includes people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney problems, or are African-American or over age 50. Reading food labels can help you see how much sodium is in prepared foods.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Sodium, Dietary
Sodium Chloride, Dietary
Food and Nutrition
Table salt is a combination of two minerals - sodium and chloride Your body needs some sodium to work properly. It helps with the function of nerves and muscles. ...
Vitamins
National Library of Medicine

Vitamins are substances that your body needs to grow and develop normally. There are 13 vitamins your body needs. They are

  • Vitamin A
  • B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

You can usually get all your vitamins from the foods you eat. Your body can also make vitamins D and K. People who eat a vegetarian diet may need to take a vitamin B12 supplement.

Each vitamin has specific jobs. If you have low levels of certain vitamins, you may get health problems. For example, if you don't get enough vitamin C, you could become anemic. Some vitamins may help prevent medical problems. Vitamin A prevents night blindness.

The best way to get enough vitamins is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods. In some cases, you may need to take vitamin supplements. It's a good idea to ask your health care provider first. High doses of some vitamins can cause problems.


Vitamins
Micronutrients
Food and Nutrition
Vitamins are substances that your body needs to grow and develop normally. There are 13 vitamins your body needs. They are Vitamin A B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, ...
Dietary Proteins
National Library of Medicine
Proteins

Protein is in every cell in the body. Our bodies need protein from the foods we eat to build and maintain bones, muscles and skin. We get proteins in our diet from meat, dairy products, nuts, and certain grains and beans. Proteins from meat and other animal products are complete proteins. This means they supply all of the amino acids the body can't make on its own. Most plant proteins are incomplete. You should eat different types of plant proteins every day to get all of the amino acids your body needs.

It is important to get enough dietary protein. You need to eat protein every day, because your body doesn't store it the way it stores fats or carbohydrates. How much you need depends on your age, sex, health, and level of physical activity. Most Americans eat enough protein in their diet.


Dietary Proteins
Food and Nutrition
Protein is in every cell in the body. Our bodies need protein from the foods we eat to build and maintain bones, muscles and skin. We get proteins in our diet ...
Carbohydrates
National Library of Medicine
Corn Syrup
Sugar
Sugar Substitutes
Sweeteners, Artificial
Carbs

Carbohydrates are one of the main types of nutrients. They are the most important source of energy for your body. Your digestive system changes carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar). Your body uses this sugar for energy for your cells, tissues and organs. It stores any extra sugar in your liver and muscles for when it is needed.

Carbohydrates are called simple or complex, depending on their chemical structure. Simple carbohydrates include sugars found naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products. They also include sugars added during food processing and refining. Complex carbohydrates include whole grain breads and cereals, starchy vegetables and legumes. Many of the complex carbohydrates are good sources of fiber.

For a healthy diet, limit the amount of added sugar that you eat and choose whole grains over refined grains.


Dietary Carbohydrates
Food and Nutrition
Carbohydrates are one of the main types of nutrients. They are the most important source of energy for your body. Your digestive system changes carbohydrates into ...