Saving our culture: A Nutritional Overview, part 3 of 3

ST. PETERSBURG — Before reading this article, I would like for you to answer the following question: “How many calories do you consume each day?”

According to the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-20,” a person should consume 2,000 calories per day; however, studies have shown that the average American eats roughly 2,700 calories. The imbalance of an increased caloric intake and a decrease in physical activity has led to a higher incidence of obesity in America.

In the African-American community, more than half of the population is considered obese. Obesity is a risk factor of many health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis and stroke. By being more cautious of what we eat and monitoring our caloric intake, we can lose weight, live healthier, but most importantly, decrease our chance of developing health problems.

There are three major dietary concerns that must be addressed in the African-American community. They are the high consumptions of total calories, sodium and sugars.

African-Americans are known to enhance the flavor of foods we love. The excessive addition of table salt to grits, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and meats are not healthy and increases the risk of developing health problems.

Although sodium is a necessity for the human body to maintain a normal balance, too much can damage the body. The average person consumes over 3,400mg of sodium a day, which is 1,000mg over the recommended daily intake of 2,400mg (1 teaspoonful).

food label, featured, healthThe consumption of large amounts of sodium is a major risk factor for developing high blood pressure better known as the “silent killer.” The use of salt needs to be limited to only a dash or pinch added to food for further flavor enhancement.

Along with the high amount of sodium intake, there is also a concern with the amount of sugar consumed. Another health problem African Americans face is diabetes, which is described as high levels of glucose (sugar) in the body.

The average American consumes 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day or 320 calories. Based on the American Heart Association, the average American should only consume 100 calories or six teaspoons of added sugar for women and 150 calories or nine teaspoons of added sugar for men.

Current nutrition labels list “Sugars” as both added and naturally occurring in the product. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. They do not include naturally occurring sugars such as those found in milk (lactose) and fruits (fructose).

It is important to read the ingredient list because it informs you if the product contains added sugars or natural sugars. Commonly used names for added sugars include agave syrup, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose), high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar and molasses.

The nutrition imbalance in the African-American community is a problem that can be fixed.  First, pay close attention to the food labeling and have a better understanding of its dietary value. The graphic provided is an example food label and circled are the important sections.

Listed at the top of a food label is the serving size. Interpreting the true nutritional value of the product can be confusing based on the reading of the label. For an example, this label has a serving size of ½ a cup and the entire package contains two cups which is four servings.

Looking at the label, a person may interpret that the product only contains 250 calories, but in reality the whole package contains 1,000 calories. You can determine the total number of calories in a package by multiplying the calories by the “servings per container” (250 calories x 4 servings per container = 1,000).

The recommended servings per container are listed on each package. As previously stated, the recommended caloric intake is 2,000 per day. The “total fat” listed on this label is 14 grams, meaning this package contains 56 grams (14g total fat x 4 servings per container = 56g).

On average, we should consume less than 63 grams of fat per day. The label also lists 75mg of sodium per serving; the total amount of sodium in this package is 300mg (75mg x 4 servings per container).

Lastly, the amount of sugar that each serving contains is 26 grams, yielding 104 grams (26g of sugar x 4 servings per container) for the entire package.

Now, that you have learned how to properly read a food label, it is time for you to incorporate this into your daily routine. The next time before eating a bag of chips or drinking a bottle of soda, look to see how many servings it contains.

Next, look to determine the amount of sodium and sugar in each serving. Then keep track of the amount of calories you consume each day.

As your neighborhood pharmacists, we hope that you take away three tips from this article: First, it is important to pay attention to food labels. Secondly, be sure to pay attention to the amount of servings per container. Lastly, it is important to look at the amount of salt and sugars that we consume each day.

In order for our culture to stay alive we must first start with becoming healthy.

Written by:
Jasmine LaVine
Joshua Peterside
FAMU College of Pharmacy, PharmD Candidates
Dr. Charlie Colquitt
Associate Professor
FAMU College of Pharmacy, Tampa Division
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