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Healthy Food Sign: Happy Heart Foods

Learn how to make a heart-healthy food choice.
By Jeannette Moninger
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman

AHA Heart Checkmark logoMost of us know eating an apple is healthier than eating a doughnut. But sometimes it's not that easy to know which food is healthier for you. And you do want to know.

Knowing what a food is made out of can help you pick foods that will help you feel your best and give you more energy. You win from eating foods that have vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in them.

One part of your body that you want to protect by eating healthy foods is your heart. Heart-healthy foods help your heart stay strong. How can you tell what is a heart-healthy food? Check out the package.

Read the Label

Some heart-healthy foods have whole grains and fiber on their nutrition facts and ingredients list. They also have iron, calcium, protein, and vitamins listed.

Foods that are healthy for your heart don't have a lot of:

  • unhealthy fat (saturated and trans fats)
  • salt (sometimes this is called sodium)
  • cholesterol
  • sugar or corn syrup

These four types of ingredients can clog your heart and blood vessels.

Another Way to Spot Heart-Healthy Foods

Here's another easy way to spot foods that are healthy for your heart. Some foods have this red heart on their package. Foods including breads, crackers, cereals, soups, and others may have these hearts. The heart picture is from the American Heart Association. It's an organization that works to protect people's hearts. 

What does it mean when you see the heart picture? You know the food in that package will be filling and nutritious, says Teresa Beach. She's a dietitian. She works at Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Foods with the heart on it won't give you extra salt or unhealthy fat. And they don't have empty calories -- the kind without healthy nutrients.

Many foods are good for your heart. But all of them don't have a heart picture on the label. If you don't see a heart picture, it doesn't mean the food is unhealthy.

On the Shelves

Now look in your kitchen and see what you can find. Check the food labels. Look for saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. You want levels of these to be low. Look for protein, calcium, and vitamins. These are good for your heart. Do any foods have the American Heart Association heart?

You can also do some research the next time you're at the grocery store. Look at foods' ingredients lists. Is sugar one of the first or second ingredients listed? If it is, that food is probably too sugary. See how many you can find without sugar listed as the first or second ingredient. These are more healthy for you. See what you can find with the red heart. Maybe you can ask your parents to add some heart-healthy foods to your cart.

Reviewed on March 16, 2012