Healthy Heart: Food Tips

December 22, 2010

Making healthy food choices is one of many lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk for getting heart disease—the No. 1 killer in the United States. The Nutrition Facts found on most foods and health claims allowed on some foods can help you choose wisely.

To help ward off heart disease, choose foods with

  • less fat
  • less sodium (salt)
  • less cholesterol
  • fewer calories
  • more fiber

“Making better food choices for your health doesn’t mean you will need to exclude favorite foods,”

says Barbara Schneeman, Ph.D., director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements.

“You can use one of the most valuable tools people have—the food label—to make dietary trade-offs. For example, if you eat a food that is high in saturated fat, you can make other choices during the day that are low in saturated fat to keep your total daily intake in balance by using the part of the food label called Nutrition Facts.”

People concerned about their blood pressure who want to limit how much salt (sodium) they eat may be faced with five different types of tomato soup on the shelf, says Schneeman. You can compare the sodium content of each product by looking at Nutrition Facts to choose the one with the lowest sodium content.

Some food products carry health claims—statements that the product may help reduce the risk of developing a certain disease or condition. FDA authorizes some health claims based on “significant scientific agreement,” which means that the claim is supported by strong, scientific evidence based on studies in people and that the claim is unlikely to be reversed by new studies. Only foods that meet the criteria for a claim are allowed to carry the claim on their labels.

Here are claims related to heart disease that you may see on some foods:

  • While many factors affect heart disease, diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of this disease.
  • Diets low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a disease associated with many factors.
  • Soluble fiber from foods such as [name of food], as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
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