Deciphering a food label can be difficult for anyone that doesn't have a background in any kind of nutrition. It is really important that you gain an understanding of nutrition labels so that you can make sure you are eating the right foods.

A lot of people familiarize themselves with the calorie and fat part of the nutrition label but they should really focus on the ingredients list instead. Calories are not that important if that food is composed of good, healthy ingredients. For example, if there is a high calorie food, most people would avoid it but if that food is made up of nutrient dense ingredients, it should be eaten. On the flip side, people will see a low calorie food with ingredients that they cannot even pronounce and will consider it healthy.

The American diet is composed of a ton of processed foods. These foods are filled with all kinds of artificial additives and flavorings, sweeteners, salts, colorings, chemicals and preservatives to make the food taste good and last long. The ingredients that are used to make your frozen dinners taste so good can be very detrimental to your health in more than one way. Aside from the ingredients in these foods being harmful to your health, a lot of the time the nutrients that were originally in those foods are stripped and diminished making for an extremely unhealthy food.

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Take a look in your kitchen and check out the ingredients list in some of your foods. Here are some of the worst ingredients that are added to many foods that you should look out for and avoid:

Partially Hydrogenated Oil
Partially hydrogenated oil is another name for a trans fat. When people talk about fats that they should avoid, trans fat and saturated fat are the two most harmful fats for the body. Trans fats are the worst kind of fat for your waist line and your heart. These fats boost your levels of LDL cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol and decrease your HDL cholesterol or "good" cholesterol. Increasing the bad and decreasing the good? That can't be beneficial for your health.

Foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils include many baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and donuts, popcorn, chips, and all kinds of fast food. When checking the ingredients list, look for these words: "Partially hydrogenated," "fractionated" or "hydrogenated."

Sodium Nitrite
Sodium nitrite is a preservative used to help prolong the shelf life of many meat products. This chemical is used to make sure that your meat and fish products do not get contaminated by bacteria. Sodium nitrate is a salt preservative that essentially causes dehydration to the food by sucking out the moisture. Bacteria won't grow in dehydrated places so it is a perfect solution to preventing food spoilage.

This preservative can be found in many processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, sausage, SPAM, and packaged deli meats like salami and ham. When shopping for meats, try to stick to fresh ones that come from a butcher, these meats do not contain sodium nitrite.

Aspartame is the most common artificial sweetener that is used in tons and tons of food products. This sweetener is made up of three chemicals: Aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. Together, they make up an additive that is about ten times sweeter than natural sugar. Many of the sweeteners that people use such as Equal and Splenda contain this harmful chemical because it contains no calories. Diet soda, diet Snapple, diet iced tea, and all other things "diet" are made with aspartame in order to keep the beverage/food still flavorful.

Aspartame has been shown to cause many adverse health symptoms such as headaches, nausea, muscle spasms, depression and irritability. Although people use it as a diet supplement because it contains zero calories, it may induce weight gain later down the road. Long-term effects of ingesting aspartame include cancer, strokes, diabetes and heart disease. Stay away from anything saying "diet" because chances are it is loaded with this sweetener.

Xanthan Gum
This sugar-like compound is made with fermented sugars and bacteria. That already doesn't sound too good. This ingredient, found in many packaged foods, is used to help thicken foods. Ever wonder how some salad dressings stay thick and creamy? Thank Xanthan gum for that.

This ingredient is not only used in your salad dressings and sauces, but also your hair gel and concrete. Before picking up some ice cream, check the ingredients list and see if it contains this thickening agent. If so, put it back.

Phosphoric Acid
What makes soda so bubbly? Phosphoric acid does the trick. This acid can cause many side effects such as gastrointestinal distress, difficulty breathing and dermatitis. It can also have a negative effect on your bones and teeth because of the acidity. Aside from being used in your soda, phosphoric acid is also found in soaps, polishes and fertilizers. Swap out your daily glass of Coke for water.

These are just a few of the many harmful ingredients that are put into many foods in your grocery store. It is really important to have an understanding of what you are ingesting into your body. Things like aspartame and phosphoric acid may claim to be safe but the human body was not meant for these chemicals. Your body needs fresh, whole ingredients -- not man-made chemicals.

A good rule of thumb when looking for foods is to look at the ingredients list and even if you don't read the actual ingredients, just see how many there are. If there are more than five ingredients in that product, chances are it's full of chemicals and additives. For example, there are 38 ingredients in McDonald's chicken nuggets. If you were to make your own chicken nuggets at home, how many ingredients would you have? Not 38! More than half of those ingredients are flavorings and preservatives. You may not be eating McDonald's chicken nuggets but that same holds true for many packaged products in the grocery store.

Another thing to look at is if you can pronounce the ingredients on the list. If you have to stand there and sound out some 18-letter word that reminds you of something you learned in 10th grade chemistry, you shouldn't be eating that food. The foods you eat should be full of natural and healthy ingredients.

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Losing weight may be the most difficult journey someone will go through. Although there are numerous fad diets promising to help you lose weight fast, the sad truth is that there is really no magic formula for losing weight. All weight-loss programs should not only require eating healthy, low-calorie food, but also exercise and lots of self discipline.

To keep the weight off without starving yourself, you must choose foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients, and at the same time rich in fiber to keep you feeling full. Filling your grocery cart with these kinds of food will bring about positive changes not only in your weight-loss program, but in your life in general.

By simply changing your dietary routine and including weight-loss inducing food, you will notice big improvements within a couple of months. It's as easy as substituting one dish or food for another, and gradually making more healthy changes as you progress in your diet.

Non-Sugary Cereal

Having non-sugary cereal for breakfast is probably the easiest way to include fiber in your diet. You may notice that fiber is the most often mentioned food to help you lose weight. The reason for this is because foods that are rich in fiber make you feel full so that you can resist the urge to eat more than you should. But aside from losing weight, there are other important health benefits in eating fiber.

Unlike protein, fats and other carbohydrates, which the body can break down, fiber is a special kind of carbohydrate coming from plants that cannot be broken down by our bodies. Therefore when eaten, it passes through our stomach unchanged. The health benefit of this is that unhealthy things in our digestive tract, such as carcinogens, bind themselves to it and move more quickly though our colon thus preventing illnesses such as colon cancer. It also helps to bring out the cholesterol from our bodies, reducing the risk for heart ailments. Having high-fiber cereal topped with fruit will ensure you get your daily recommended dosage of fiber.


There are certain fruits that have a bigger advantage over others in the weight-loss department. Fruits such as grapefruit are not only rich in fiber, they also have other weight-loss inducing qualities that make them crucial for your diet. Research shows that grapefruit may block the enzymes that are involved in storing fat and carbohydrates, thus letting our bodies burn fats faster.

Grapefruit has a high fiber content and low glycemic load. Glycemic load is the ranking of food based on its carbohydrate content and the impact it has on blood sugar levels in our bodies. A glycemic index below 10 is considered low, and these low glycemic foods are those that help us lose weight. The glycemic index of half a grapefruit is 6, making it an ideal fruit to include in our diet. Grapefruit also has a high water content, and the more water you take in, the healthier you are. You can add this delicious fruit to your diet by eating it alone or by adding it to your salads and fruit smoothies.


You may be surprised to find potatoes on the list. However, French fries and potato chips are not what I’m talking about. The real problem why potatoes become fattening is because of the way they are cooked. By baking or boiling potatoes instead of frying them, they become a healthy addition to our diet. Potatoes are 99.9 percent fat-free and 100 percent cholesterol-free. They have a high water content, are low in calories and are filling and especially nutritious when eaten with their skin. They also are loaded with Vitamin B, C, potassium and protein.

Aside from keeping you full, the protein will help you build muscle and the carbohydrates will provide you with energy. So even if you are working out, you won't feel starved and weak as most people who are on a diet do. For an easy potato dish, wrap a potato in foil and bake it. Drizzle it with a little extra virgin olive oil and top it with rosemary and thyme.


This supermarket staple has many weight-loss benefits that can keep the pounds off at the same time boosting your health. Sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which is the fat that's considered healthy and good for the heart. New research shows that an increase in Omega-3 fatty acids balances our leptin levels. Leptin is a hormone that tells our brain to burn fat and triggers appetite suppression. Stress and an unhealthy diet can wreak havoc on our leptin levels and cause it to become imbalanced, causing our bodies to gain more weight. By increasing your intake of food such as sardines, our leptin levels work at optimum level to help us achieve weight loss.

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Rebecca Soni earned three medals (two gold and one silver) in London to go along with the three (two silver, one gold) that she picked up at Beijing in 2008.


ThePostGame: You started swimming when you were 10. When did you realize you were pretty exceptional in the pool? And when were your first Olympic aspirations?:
REBECCA SONI: Ever since I was young and in the pool I just really had fun with it. I never really thought about going to the Olympics when I was older, and I didn't really ever have specific goals, I just enjoyed every day in the pool. It probably wasn't until I was in college at USC that I thought I might really have a chance at making the Olympic team.

TPG: Tell me about your training regimen. And how did your training change when the Olympics became a real possibility?
SONI: I always kept training mostly the same. Throughout high school, I spent most of my time in the pool – two hours before school, two hours after school. And even though I wasn't necessarily thinking about the Olympics at the time, I still wanted to work hard. I enjoyed working hard and getting better.

TPG: You took home one gold medal and two silvers in Beijing in 2008. Did that success make you change how you trained as you prepared for London?
SONI: Since Beijing, I've definitely been training really hard. I've been focusing on some different things in my training outside of the pool -- like yoga and Pilates -- and just finding different ways to stay active and athletic.

TPG: Your sister is also a swimmer. What was the sisterly competition like when you were growing up?
SONI: When we were younger we were definitely competitive. Luckily, we swam different events, and she has been so supportive of my Olympic journey. It's been so fun to share it with her and be able to talk to her about it and just have her be a part of it.

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Meet Margret Gnarr, a fitness competitor from Iceland.

Age: 23.
Height: 5-5.
Bench Press: 132 pounds.
Deadlift: 220 Pounds.
Squat: 242 Pounds.

Dual Fit: Why did you decide to begin training and exercising?
MARGRET GNARR: I have been in sports since I was a little girl. It was one of those things I was really good at. My favorite class in school was gym class. I started in figure skating when I was 8 but after I injured my ankles I couldn't train for couple of months. When I got better I didn't really want to do figure skating anymore so I tried the Korean martial art taekwondo. I have been doing taekwondo for 10 years now and I will be a black belt in couple of days.

Last year I went though some tough times and lost a lot of weight. I was 47 kg (104 pounds) and starting to have heart problems. I couldn't do taekwondo in that state because as soon as I did a hard cardio like workout my heart would skip a beat or stop for several seconds. I needed a new goal in life and my fiance dragged me to the gym with him to do some weight training. After a month in the gym I was hooked. I got stronger and stronger and soon I decided to compete in fitness.

DF: What are your workout goals for the future?
GNARR: My goal is to do the best I can every day and in competitions. I want to be a good role model for young girls.

DF: What is in your experience the most effective routine?
GNARR: Right now I'm trying to get my upper body a little bigger and I want my thighs to get a little smaller.
For my leg workout I do light weights and 20-25 reps but for my upper body I do heavy weights and 8-12 reps. I also do taekwondo 5-6 times a week. It's great for cardio.

DF: What is your current routine?
GNARR: My trainer Katrin Eva from is in charge of my workout plan and it sounds like this:

Chest and shoulders:
Warm up 5-10 minutes
Dumbbell bench press 3 sets 12 reps
Decline barbell bench press 3 sets 12 reps
Cable standing incline fly 3 sets 12 reps
Barbell shoulder press 3 sets 6-8 reps
Dumbbell upright row 3 sets 6-8 reps
Cable rope rear-delt row 4 sets 6-8 reps
Cable one-arm lateral raise 3 sets 6-8 reps
Dumbbell seated rear-lateral raise 4 sets 6-8 reps

Cable crunch 4 sets 10 reps
Butt–ups 3 sets 20 reps
Weighted vertical leg-hip raises 3 sets 20 reps

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Dual Fit

Melanie Oudin won her first WTA tournament in June when she defeated Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 6-2, in a pre-Wimbledon event in Birmingham, England. Oudin, 20, also won the mixed doubles title at the U.S. Open last year with Jack Sock.

Yoga is a part of her training regimen, and here's a quick look at her favorite poses;

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