Research published by the American Heart Association (AHA) shows that shoppers who read food labels cut about twice the amount of fat from their diet than those who do not. Reducing the level of saturated fat and cholesterol is an important way to fight heart disease.
The problem is that many people find it very hard to understand the information on nutrition labels. With this is mind, the AHA has produced a food label-reading shortcut which enables consumers to identify low-fat, low-cholesterol foods quickly and reliably.
The association's Food Certification Programme and its highly visible red and white heart-check mark are on the labels of hundreds of food products. Products bearing the mark are low in saturated fat and cholesterol and can be part of a heart healthy diet for healthy people over the age of two.
"Consumers are inundated with health messages and claims on food packages. Many people need and want a quick and reliable way to cut through the confusion," said Rebecca Mullis, head of the University of Georgia's nutrition department and a volunteer member of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee. "The American Heart Association's heart check-mark is the best way to easily find heart healthy foods."
All products certified by the American Heart Association meet the organisation's nutrition criteria. These state that each serving must be low fat (less than or equal to 3g), low in saturated fat (less than or equal to 1g), low in cholesterol (less than or equal to 20mg), low in sodium (less than or equal to 480mg for individual foods) and that it must contain at least 10 per cent of the recommended daily value of either protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron or dietary fibre.