'Heart healthy' food label can be deceiving, nutrition expert says

We've heard oatmeal, salmon and walnuts have heart-healthy properties, but nutrition expert Dr. Jonny Bowden questions some foods packaged as "heart healthy."

"These companies determine whether something is heart healthy based on one nutrient or the absence of that nutrient," said Bowden, author of "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth."

Bowden says read those labels. Take canned soup for example. It might be advertised as heart healthy due to a lower sodium content, but look at what else the product provides.

"It's got about 18 unpronounceable chemical ingredients. I don't feel that the lower sodium is worth what you have to put up with to get it," Bowden said.

He is also concerned about some heart-healthy breakfast cereals.

"You've seen cereals with a heart-healthy lowering-cholesterol label. The problem is when you look at the label you're paying with about 17 grams of sugar for that little bitty tiny cholesterol-lowering fiber.

How much better would that be to get that fiber from whole foods that actually don't contribute to heart disease by adding inflammatory sugars," Bowden said.

Such as nuts, seeds and plant foods that contain naturally occurring fiber without the sweet stuff. Bowden says sugar is the number-one challenge.

"Everybody thinks that sugar is just something that puts fat on which it does and contributes to all kinds of metabolic problems - but what people don't realize is sugar is probably the most inflammatory substance in our diet," said Bowden.

Beyond added sugars: Breads, pasta, chips and other carbs break down into sugar when digested so portions count!

But there's a way to check if you're getting too much.

If you put in the hidden sugar effect on a Google search you will come to the Atkin's website which can help you determine what kind of sugar you're getting in unsuspecting foods.

"It has a wonderful algorithm that looks at the glycemic load, the portion size and tells you the impact of these non-sugar foods that you think aren't doing any damage because there's no sugar on the ingredient list, like a bagel," said Bowden.

The bottom line: a diet rich in whole foods naturally can increase nutrients and fiber while lowering sugar and salt.
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