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Understand Labels, Claims, and Icons

For every category of food, you will find an assortment of front-of-package labeling, but all manufacturers must comply with the same rules established by the U.S. government. (See “Know the Sodium Specifics” for the details of what the different wordings mean.) For example, a “no salt added” or “unsalted” claim on the label means that no sodium was added during processing; however, it does not mean that the food is sodium free. It's always better to compare the actual sodium value on the nutrition facts panel rather than to rely on labeling terms.

Likewise, terms such as “natural” and “organic” do not mean that a food is also low in sodium. In fact, some of the manufactured products that are advertised as being healthier can actually be higher in sodium than their “regular” counterparts, as the following examples illustrate.

Understand Labels, Claims, and Icons

Understand Labels, Claims, and Icons

Several organizations, including the American Heart Association, are working to make it easy to decipher the information on food packaging. Many have developed icon systems to help you make decisions when you shop, and some grocery stores have introduced their own on-shelf labeling programs. When you see a front-of-package icon or wording that signals a health claim, you should still evaluate the information on the nutrition facts panel and the ingredient list before you make your selection. However, when you see a product with the American Heart Association's red-and-white Heart-Check Mark on the label, you can be sure that the product meets the association's limits for total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. It also must include a minimum level of one of six beneficial nutrients.

Understand Labels, Claims, and Icons

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