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How to Be Heart Smart at the Supermarket
Date:2/24/2008

Dietitian offers advice on navigating nutrition claims and food labels

SUNDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Taking the time to investigate food labels not only can improve your heart health, but also your overall wellness.

"Reading the labels is a great way to be guided toward healthier choices for your heart, and for general reduction of all chronic diseases today," Cathy Fitzgerald, registered dietitian with MFit, the University of Michigan Health System's health promotion division, said in a prepared statement. "So think about using the front of the package as well as the nutrition facts on the back when you are out shopping."

Start by educating yourself on what food label language truly means. Fitzgerald offered these tips:

  • The claim, "May reduce the risk of heart disease." A company can only put this statement on a food if scientific evidence exists that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has decided is strong enough to support it.
  • Nutrient content claims. The government regulates how a company can use terms such as "high," "low" or "reduced." For example, a food must have 3 grams of fat or less to be considered low fat, and a product that is high in a certain nutrient provides 20 percent or more of the daily value suggested by the FDA.
  • Foods with fiber. Fiber helps the digestive system and lowers cholesterol. Look for the claims "high in fiber" or "excellent source of fiber," as these products have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. A food listed as a "good source" of fiber has 2.5 grams of fiber or more.
  • Omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats have been shown to benefit the heart. Fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and trout are good sources of omega fats and are low in saturated fat.
  • Sterols and stanols. Plant sterols and stanols are cholesterol-lowering substances often added to products like margarine and salad dressings. Review the label carefully to make s
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