Health Library

The Health Library is a collection of health and wellness resources created for learning and accessibility. Select a topic below for related health information or search for a topic in the search bar for more information on other medical conditions.

Health Claims on Food Labels

Overview

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.

Food label terms

Term

What it means (per serving)

Calorie-free

Food has less than 5 calories.

Low-calorie

Food has less than 40 calories.

Light

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.

Low-fat

There are 3 grams or less of fat.

Lean

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.

Low cholesterol

Food has less than 20 mg of cholesterol and 2 grams or less of saturated fat.

Low sodium

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.

High in

Provides 20% or more of the Daily Value of a nutrient.

High fiber

Has 5 or more grams of fiber.

Credits

Current as of: September 8, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.