More about Heart Mark
Eating healthy can prevent conditions like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, some cancers, heart disease and strokes. Most of us eat too much salt, sugar, refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, and not enough vegetables and fruit. But sometimes choosing the right foods is not always easy. Many foods contain hidden ingredients like sugar, salt and fats that you cannot see. Some foods make health claims that are not true and nutritional information on food packages can be difficult to interpret.
The Heart Mark is a tool to make it easier for you to make the healthier choice when faced with a variety of options at the supermarket. It helps you to identify healthier products that contain less added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, and more fibre compared to other similar products. Start making better food choices and live healthy. Use the Heart Mark to help you make it easier.
The Heart Mark endorsement is based on a set of criteria used to evaluate foods against. Criteria are set for more than 30 different food categories. For each food category there are a different set of limits for the amount of saturated fat, sugar, salt, trans fats and fibre. The limits are based on several factors, including nutritional guidelines from the World Health Organization and other leading authorities in nutrition, South African legislation relating to trans fats and sodium content, and the portion size of the food that is typically consumed.
The criterion was developed in collaboration with nutrition experts and is in line with similar programmes from the American Heart Association and the Australian Heart Foundation. The set of criteria is not stagnant but is updated to stay current with nutrition guidelines and recommendations.
This methodical approach ensures that foods endorsed by the Heart Mark are foods that can be included regularly as part of a heart healthy diet. This will include foods that are healthier options compared to other foods in the same category.
Behind the scenes we have done the hard work to ensure that you can trust the Heart Mark to show you the healthier choice. Foods with the Heart Mark have been approved as healthier food choices that can form part of healthy eating patterns in line with the latest local and international dietary guidelines.
Our team of dietitians have developed the strict nutritional criteria that need to be met for a product to carry the logo. These include saturated and trans fats, added sugar, sodium and fibre. A food is evaluated for this combination of nutrition criteria rather than just considering one factor, ensuring that overall it is a healthier choice compared to similar products.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation SA has been given permission by the National Department of Health to act as the endorsing body for the Heart Mark, and the criteria are in line with relevant food and labelling legislation. We review the Heart Mark programme and criteria on an on-going basis to ensure it remains up to date with the latest international guidelines and key publications.
These steps ensure that the Heart Mark remains a trusted and credible tool to help you identify healthier choices.
Foods have to earn the Heart Mark. In order to carry the logo, a food has to meet strict science-based criteria for saturated and trans fats, added sugar, salt and fibre. The product needs to undergo testing at an independent laboratory, and our team of dietitians evaluates the food according to our criteria. If the product fails to meet all the criteria, it will not be endorsed. Our dietitians also check that the product information on the packet is accurate and in line with legislation. Only once these steps are approved, is the company given the thumbs up for the product to carry the Heart Mark. Once a product has the Heart Mark, we can randomly test it at any time to ensure it keeps meeting our standards.
The Heart Mark isn’t a diet, but rather a tool to help you compare similar foods and choose the healthier option, helping you to eat better. The Heart Mark will identify foods within certain categories that are:
- Lower in saturated and trans fats
- Lower in added sugar
- Lower in salt
- And higher in fibre
With around 500 different Heart Mark products to choose from across 59 different food categories, you’ll find Heart Mark choices in most of the foods you usually buy. Use it to identify healthier choices when buying anything from bread to baked beans to breakfast cereal. Also remember that all fresh fruit and vegetables are eligible for the Heart Mark even though they might not carry the Heart Mark logo on their packaging, as these are some of the foods that form the basis of a healthy diet.
Heart Mark products can be used as part of a healthy eating plan, which means choosing healthy foods most of the time, and making healthier choices whenever we can.