In the last days of Heart Health Month, we've been focusing on ways to get our hearts healthy now and in the future. One key way to keeping healthy is to smarten up at the grocery store when reading labels. Here's just a few tips to help you figure out what it all means on the front of the label, and the back:
- Sterols and stanols. Plant sterols and stanols are cholesterol-lowering substances often added to products like margarine and salad dressings. Review the label carefully to make sure a product states it offers the cholesterol-lowering benefits of plant sterols and stanols.
- Sodium. Look for phrases like "low sodium" or "reduced sodium." This is especially important in processed and canned foods. If a food is labeled as "reduced" in sodium, it has 25 percent less salt than the regular product.
- Trans fats. Eat trans fats sparingly, as they raise your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol. Fried foods and processed foods that have a long shelf life are often loaded with them. The term "partially hydrogenated oil" on an ingredient list indicates the food contains trans fats.
- Saturated fat. Butter, fatty cuts of red meat, and cheese made from whole milk are among foods with the highest amount of saturated fat — a main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol. Opt for low-fat or nonfat dairy products, lean meats such as loin or round cuts and liquid margarines instead of butter.