ZocdocAnswersShould I pay attention to food labels that say their contents are good for my heart?

Question

Should I pay attention to food labels that say their contents are good for my heart?

Plenty of the foods I eat, from cereal to juice drinks, claim to be good for my heart, whether it says so on the label or on the television commercial. Sometimes there is very little information presented to back up this claim. How can I tell if the food I am looking at is really going to benefit my heart?s health? Is there any specific ingredient I should be looking out for on nutritional labels to determine whether or not it is actually ?heart healthy??

Answer

This is a great question to discuss with your primary care physician or dietician. It is always a good idea to actually read food labels--the ingredients and calorie information--rather than to rely on the advertising information on the label. As you very accurately point out, many foods claim to be "heart healthy" or use other such advertising slogans that may or may not be entirely accurate. Foods that help promote good cardiac health include fresh fruits and vegetables (no labels needed!), foods that are low in processed or refined sugars, foods that are low in total fat and particularly saturated fat, and foods that contain whole grains. You can find all of this information on the food label--beyond fats it is also important to pay attention to the sugar count, as many "low fat" foods will contain excessive amounts of sugar which can contribute to the development of diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. Overall, if you are looking to improve your dietary choices, the best thing to do is make an appointment to see you primary care physician to discuss further. Your doctor can go over your particular cardiac health risks and also help refer you to a dietician or nutritionist who can then help make further recommendations and practice instructions about how to choose foods in the grocery store and when eating out.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.