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Heart Health

Use Nutrition Facts Labels to Choose Heart-Healthy Foods

Whether or not you have a family history of heart disease, it's a good idea to follow a heart-healthy diet. Heart disease is the nation's No. 1 killer. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers the following guidance about using the Nutrition Facts label to choose heart-healthy foods:  

When using the Nutrition Facts label, many nutrients have an accompanying percentage of the nutrient's "Daily Value." The general rule is that a Daily Value of 20 percent or more indicates the food is high in that nutrient; a Daily Value of 5 percent or less indicates the food is low in the nutrient. There is no Daily Value for trans fats, so take a look at the total amount of trans fat on the label -- the idea is just to keep those as low as possible in your diet.

You can also look on food labels for official health claims related to heart health. These claims have passed muster with the FDA because they have met with significant scientific agreement about the relationship of the nutrients mentioned and a reduced risk of disease. Official heart-healthy claims include:

Additional guidelines for choosing and preparing foods aimed at a healthy heart include:

Unless a health professional has instructed you to restrict the amount of potassium you eat, choose foods that are high in potassium, which acts as a counter-balance to sodium and can help regulate blood pressure.

Reference:

Eat for a Healthy Heart (FDA)
A Key to Choosing Healthful Foods: Using the Nutrition Facts on the Food Label (FDA)
Whole Grains and Fiber (American Heart Association)
 
This article originally appeared in Chow Line (2/14/10) a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2010.

For more information:

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Last Reviewed: Mar 29, 2010

Julie  Kennel, PhD, RD, CSSD, LD Julie Kennel, PhD, RD, CSSD, LD
Director of Human Nutrition Dietetic Internship
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University