Heart-healthy eating

Heart-healthy eating

These days, you seem to see the words “heart-healthy” everywhere—from restaurant menus to cookbooks, from newspapers and TV to government websites.

What to know about what to eat with Heart Failure (HF)

What does “heart-healthy” mean for the way you eat day to day when you have HF?

HF means eating less of some things, more of others

You may have heard that you should eat less salt, but why? Too much salt can cause your body to retain water, which can create an added burden on your heart.

Eating less salt

low sodium diet

As part of managing your HF, your doctor may ask you to change a lifetime of eating habits and adopt a heart-healthy, low-salt diet. Here’s some help getting started, including a collection of appetizing recipes, to prove that low salt doesn’t have to mean no flavor.

low sodium diet
heart failure diet

What’s your limit?

heart failure diet

You may be given a limit measured in mg (milligrams) of sodium per day, most likely 1,500 or 2,000 mg. Ordinary table salt is 40% sodium, so this equals just three-quarters of a teaspoon or one teaspoon of salt a day. Be sure to ask your doctor what the salt limit should be for your daily diet.

Before you buy the food, check the label

At the supermarket, take a few seconds to read the nutrition labels. Avoid packaged and prepared foods, like frozen dinners—as well as convenient grab-and-go standbys high in salt, like:

  • Bread, rolls, bagels

  • Cold cuts and cured meats

  • Pizza

  • Soup

  • Sandwiches

  • Poultry

Get low-salt or no-salt versions where you can or, better yet, give them a pass.

Add these foods to your shopping list*

Healthy eating with HF isn’t just about what not to eat. Many people with HF have been found to be short of some important nutrients, so it makes sense to eat more of the foods that are good for you.

  • Vegetables: dark green leafy vegetables, as well as those that are red and orange in color; beans and peas

  • Fruits: such as apples, oranges, pears, berries, and avocados

  • Whole grains: such as oatmeal and brown rice

  • Seafood: oily fish such as salmon, trout, or herring—eat about twice a week to replace some of the meat and poultry in your diet

  • Nuts and seeds: for example, walnuts and sunflower seeds

  • Olive oil: instead of solid fats like butter

  • Dairy: go for fat-free or low-fat options

*Talk to your doctor about whether you’re getting the right nutrition and whether you should get advice from a dietitian or nutritionist.

Want more ideas on better eating with HF?

For suggestions on eating healthier and a useful guide on calculating salt content, register for the Keep It Pumping resource program, including your free Heart Failure Handbook.

Register