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Decoding Food Labels

Contributed by: NAPSA

(NAPSA) - Read any good labels lately? You should. Research shows that shoppers who read food labels cut about twice the amount of fat from their diet as those who don't read labels. Unfortunately, fewer than half of Americans regularly check nutrition food labels, according to a recent survey by the American Heart Association.

Fortunately, there are some simple ways to look for what your body-specifically your heart- doesn't need in the food you eat. Two red flags to look for first: saturated fat and cholesterol. As the nation's foremost authority on heart health, the American Heart Association states reducing saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease-America's number-one killer of both women and men.

If the nutritional fine print is too daunting to decode, the association has an easy-to-use tool consumers can rely on to identify foods that can be part of a heart-healthy eating plan. Products that qualify for the American Heart Association's Food Certification Program carry a red and white heart-check mark on the label. It shows the product meets the organization's nutritional criteria per standard serving:

  • Low fat (less than or equal to 3 grams)

  • Low saturated fat (less than or equal to 1 gram)

  • Low cholesterol (less than or equal to 20 milligrams)

  • Sodium value of less than or equal to 480 milligrams

  • At least 10 percent of the Daily Value of these naturally occurring nutrients: protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron or dietary fiber

  • Meats must meet the standards for "extra lean."

"The American Heart Association red heart-check mark is a great way to find heart-healthy foods simply and reliably," says Rebecca Mullis, Ph.D., head of the University of Georgia's nutrition department. "Consumers can rest assured that the mark is based on the best science available."

Mullis says it's one tool she recommends to her own patients to help them build a heart-healthy diet. "It's a good practice to look for the heart-check mark, and read your food labels for information on calories, sodium, added sugar and serving size. Anyone with a medical condition, she adds, should contact a physician or registered dietitian about special dietary needs.

To learn more, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 (1-800-242-8721) for a free "Shop Smart with Heart" brochure.

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