These days, you seem to see the words “heart-healthy” everywhere—from restaurant menus to cookbooks, from newspapers and TV to government websites.
What does “heart-healthy” mean for the way you eat day to day when you have HF?
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.
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.
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.
Here are hundreds of delicious low-sodium recipes that prove low salt doesn’t mean no flavor.
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
Get low-salt or no-salt versions where you can or, better yet, give them a pass.
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.
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.