This week was the deadline for food companies to meet more stringent criteria limiting added sugar, sodium, total calories and raising minimum dietary fiber requirements for foods bearing the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark. AHA formulates and periodically revises its own Heart-Check criteria for different food categories based on sound science regarding healthy diet, product ingredients and nutrient values. These most recent changes were made to help ensure that the certified foods are consistent with current dietary recommendations made by AHA and other major health organizations.
Improving the quality of your diet can lower your risk of chronic disease like cardiovascular diseases and stroke, and foods with the Heart-Check mark can be used as building blocks for a heart-healthy dietary pattern. The AHA encourages consumers to educate themselves about their food choices, including looking for the Heart-Check Mark and reading nutrition panels.
For the first time, the Heart-Check criteria include guidelines for limiting added sugar, due to sugar’s possible contribution to America’s obesity epidemic and its effect on cardiovascular health. The sodium requirements for many products were changed to help people consume less sodium and assist consumers in moving towards ideal levels of under 1,500 milligrams per day, consistent with AHA’s diet and lifestyle recommendations. The Heart-Check Mark does not signal that any particular food is “low sodium,” as defined by federal regulations, but tells you that a product, including its sodium level, is consistent with a heart-healthy diet.
The new nutrition requirements were announced in 2011, giving food companies with products that didn’t meet the criteria two years to reformulate their products or discontinue participation in the program.
In addition to announcing nutrition requirements in 2011, the program unveiled a new look for the Heart-Check mark and expanded to include foods with higher levels of mono and polyunsaturated fats, certain nuts and fish with Omega-3 fatty acids.
The nutrition requirements for certification promote foods that have more mono- and polyunsaturated fats, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, and less saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and sugar. Products also have to meet relevant government regulatory requirements for making a coronary heart disease health claim.
In 1995, the American Heart Association established the Heart-Check Food Certification Program and the Heart-Check mark to help consumers easily identify heart-healthy foods while shopping.
Heart-Check Food Certification Program nutrition requirements are food-based and intended for healthy people over age two. People with special medical needs should follow the advice of their health professionals.
Heart-Check Mark criteria differ depending on the food category.
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