Heart-Check Frequently Asked Questions

Updated:Jun 30,2015

FAQs about the Heart-Check Program

Q. Does the Heart-Check mark on a product mean the American Heart Association endorses that product?

A: No. The American Heart Association does not endorse any product, make product superiority claims or recommend one certified food or product over another. Certification is voluntary, inclusive and open to food products that meet all Heart-Check nutrition requirements. Certified products are reviewed annually.

A: No. The American Heart Association does not endorse any product, make product superiority claims or recommend one certified food or product over another. Certification is voluntary, inclusive and open to food products that meet all Heart-Check nutrition requirements. Certified products are reviewed annually.

A: The Heart-Check certification is a voluntary program. Any qualifying food product that applies and meets the program’s nutrition requirements may become certified. However, not every food product that qualifies chooses to apply for certification.

A: Certified products must comply with food category-specific requirements for total sugars in food categories that tend to have higher levels of added sugar but make a positive contribution to the diet, such as unsweetened fruit, whole grains and fiber. These categories include milk and milk alternatives, grain-based products, yogurt, vegetable and fruit juices, canned vegetables and fruits, and frozen fruits.

These requirements support the approach to limit discretionary calories coming from added sugars in the diet, as outlined in American Heart Association’s 2009 science paper “Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association.”

A: One of four sodium limits applies, depending on the particular food category: up to 140 mg, 240 mg or 360 mg per label serving, or 480 mg per label serving and per RACC. See Sodium Limits by Category for details. Using this categorical approach helps Heart-Check program users follow a diet that meets our goal of less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. It also helps them make selections that reduce sodium intake over time using a stair-step approach. (With current intake of sodium at about 3,400 mg/day, a reduction over time may be necessary for some individuals to succeed in reaching the goal of less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day).

Limiting sodium intake can be achieved by consuming combinations of foods within the framework of an overall sensible eating pattern. The Heart-Check mark can help consumers find products that fit into that pattern. Heart-Check nutrition requirements are food-based and intended for healthy people over age two. The Heart-Check program is not a dietary solution for any particular condition or disease. People with dietary restrictions or medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, should follow the advice of their healthcare professionals. For clients/patients with a condition that requires sodium restriction, you can provide sodium limits customized to their unique needs.

A: The Heart-Check Food Certification Program is in compliance with federal requirements for making coronary heart disease health claims.

Under the “Whole Grain Foods with Moderate Fat Content” health claim regarding the risk of heart disease, the term “whole-grain foods” was defined as foods that contain 51 percent or more whole-grain ingredients by weight per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC). This definition conforms to the policy that a food is characterized by its predominant ingredient(s). Such a definition also ensures the whole-grain food provides at least 16 grams of whole grain per ounce equivalent.

Whole grains are an important source of fiber, which is important for the health of the digestive system and may help lower cholesterol. The American Heart Association wants consumers to get the maximum nutritional benefit of whole grain and fiber. Fiber, in fact, is a marker in indicating whole-grain content and adds to the cardio-protective aspect of whole-grain foods.

A: Food and Drug Administration (FDA) health claim regulations require that any product making coronary heart disease health claims must contain at least 10 percent of the Daily Reference Value (DRV) or Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of at least one of six specified nutrients per RACC. These nutrients are vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein and dietary fiber. This requirement means Heart-Check certified products make a positive nutrient contribution to the diet.

The nutrients must be naturally occurring and not fortified. Exceptions are made for products classified as “historically fortified” by the FDA.

A: We limit calories in certain products to control for added sugars. Since added sugars are not disclosed on the Nutrition Facts label, there is no transparent way to establish a specific added sugars requirement.

The American Heart Association recommends consumers limit the amount of added sugars to no more than half their daily discretionary calorie allowance. That’s no more than about 6 teaspoons, or 100 calories, a day for most American women and no more than about 9 teaspoons, or 150 calories, a day for men.



If you have questions that are not addressed here, please contact us.

Heart-Check Mark for Health Professionals