If you have heart disease or any other heart health concerns, it can be difficult to know what foods are healthy for you. The heart doctor near you may be able to give your tips on what to eat and what not to eat, but they cannot accompany you into the stores to help you make decisions. If you ever had trouble understanding what nutrition labels say and mean for you as someone with heart health restrictions, this article is for you. Here are some tips when looking at food labels:

Caloric Content

Most people rely on the listing of calories on the food label to decide whether a food is a healthy choice for them at first glance. However, some consumers may not even be aware of what a “calorie” is. A calorie is one unit of energy, and the calorie count on a certain food represents how much energy would be gained by the consumer by taking in this food or drink. Specifically, when looking at a nutrition label, you will want to notice how many calories are in one serving of that food or drink. Equally as important, you will want to make sure that the serving size is a measurement you understand and take into account when consuming.


One of the most important values to look at is the amount of fats present in the food or drink, especially if you have cardiovascular health issues. The total fats will be published in grams per serving, and the saturated fat totals are reflected as a percentage of the daily value based on a recommended 2000-calorie diet. If you have high cholesterol, you will want to limit your saturated fat intake. No more than 5% of your total caloric intake should be attributed to saturated fats. 


If you have cardiac issues, avoiding high levels of cholesterol is key. On the nutrition label, the amount of cholesterol in milligrams will be listed. The recommended total of cholesterol intake is 300 mg (milligrams) or less. 


Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably and is something to be avoided at high levels. Sodium chloride, or salt, is the most common form of sodium. Intaking a low amount of sodium is preferred for patients with heart disease. “Low sodium” foods and drinks should have 140 mg per serving or less. If you are diagnosed with hypertension, you should limit your sodium intake to 1500 mg or less. Ultimately, your doctor will set the sodium limits to which you should abide.


Carbohydrates, or carbs, are sugar molecules that are the body’s main source of energy. There are many misconceptions about carbohydrates and whether they are all good or all bad for the body. “Bad carbs” are carbohydrates that raise someone’s blood sugar immediately and quickly. One example of how “bad carbs” can be seen on a nutrition label is as “added sugars.” As a patient with cardiac health issues, you should steer as clear as possible from these “bad carbs.” On the contrary, “good carbs” represent carbs that increase the blood sugar slowly and levels off the blood sugar levels for a certain time. Examples of “good carbs” are foods that contain high fiber content. The daily recommended value of carbohydrates is between 25 and 36 grams per day.


Fiber is another substance that will be measured on the nutrition label. Fiber cannot be fully digested by the digestive system, which helps “clean out” the system and flush bad cholesterol from the body. You will want to intake at least 25 grams of fiber per day to have a healthy gut system.


Proteins are another substance that is reflected on nutrition labels. Proteins are the basic component of all cells and have many jobs in the body such as making up your hair, nails, and other substances on the body, help organs function properly, and is a basic building block of all human life. In general, the daily recommended value of protein intake is 50 grams. However, if you are a patient with chronic kidney issues, your doctor may advise you to limit your protein intake. 

There are other substances reflected on nutrition labels, but these are some of the most important to take into consideration as a patient with heart health issues. It is important that you discuss the healthy values of these substances with your doctor. If you have any questions regarding how to read these labels with your health in mind, ask the professionals at CT Cardio for a knowledgeable and comprehensive treatment plan.