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Health Claims on Food Labels
Food makers can make health claims about certain nutrients, such as calcium, fiber, and fat, that are found naturally in foods. The health claims must be balanced and based on current, reliable scientific studies. And the claims must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Health claims may be statements like:
- "This food is a good source of calcium. Adequate intake of calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis."
- "Development of cancer depends on many factors. A diet low in total fat may reduce the risk of some cancers."
But just because a food label has a health claim does not mean that the food is healthy for you. For example, a food that is labeled as "a good source of calcium" may still be high in fat, salt, or sugar.
Terms you can trust
A food label includes the front panel, the ingredients list, and the Nutrition Facts label. The terms on labels are legally defined for food companies. Phrases such as "low-fat," "light," and "-free" (as in "fat-free") are standardized for all foods. If a food uses one of these terms, you can trust that it meets the criteria for that term.
What it means (per serving)
Food has less than 5 calories.
Food has less than 40 calories.
Has 1/3 fewer calories or 1/2 the fat of the regular product.
Fat-free or sugar-free
There's less than 1/2 gram of fat or sugar.
There are 3 grams or less of fat.
There are 10 grams or less of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg of cholesterol in a 3 oz serving of meat, poultry, or seafood.
Food has less than 20 mg of cholesterol and 2 grams or less of saturated fat.
Food has 140 mg or less of sodium.
Good source of
There's at least 10% of the Daily Value of the vitamin or nutrient.
Provides 20% or more of the Daily Value of a nutrient.
Has 5 or more grams of fiber.
Current as of: May 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
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