I’m in my 30s and I never follow the nutrition labels on food. Am I about to die? © Getty Images

I’m in my 30s and I never follow the nutrition labels on food. Am I about to die?

Put the burger down. Unless you are already eating fresh, unprocessed foods, you could be impacting your health in the long run by not taking note of nutritional guidelines.

Probably not immediately, but you may be compromising your long-term health. That’s because those colour-coded labels on the front of packaging – introduced by the government on a voluntary basis in 2013 – are a quick guide to the content of food widely held to affect health: energy (calories), total fat, saturated fat, total sugars and salt. Each is categorised red, amber or green depending on how they compare to so-called daily ‘reference intakes’ (RIs) set by the European Food Safety Authority. Admittedly, these aren’t a perfect guide, though.

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Take the RI for energy: 2,000kcals (kilocalories) per day. This figure is used across the board, but strictly it’s the RI for a moderately active woman. If you’re a very active man, for instance, you may be fine eating considerably more. Then again, scoff one biscuit per day that’s rated ‘green’ for fat, sugar and salt, but which takes you just 50kcal above your optimum amount of calories, and in a few years you could go from slim to unhealthily overweight, as the body stores excess calories as fat.

So while the guidelines are worth paying attention to, you’d also be wise to follow the advice of nutrition experts and swap the heavily processed and refined packaged food for more fresh vegetables, fruit, fish and nuts.

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