What’s the Best Diet for Congestive Heart Failure Patients?

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  • The rule of thumb is to eat as much fresh food as possible
  • Healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can actually be beneficial for congestive heart failure patients

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, maintaining a healthy diet is a must to prevent the disease from worsening.

Foods Ideal for Congestive Heart Failure Patients

The rule of thumb is to eat as much fresh food as possible.1 Make sure to incorporate these foods into your diet:

  • Unrestricted quantities of fresh, organic and low-net carb vegetables
  • Moderate portions of high-quality protein from organically raised, grass fed or pastured animals
  • High amounts of healthy fats from sources like avocados, coconut oil, grass fed butter, pastured egg yolks and raw nuts like macadamia, pecans and pine nuts

Healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can actually be beneficial for congestive heart failure patients. Omega-3s may help decrease inflammation trigged by atherosclerosis (inflammation in your arteries) and aid with reducing triglyceride levels. Other foods you can add to your diet include:2

  • Green tea: As highlighted in a 2007 Journal of the American College of Nutrition study, the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea may have a heart-protecting ability.3
  • Pomegranate: A 2011 Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice study highlights that antioxidant chemicals in this fruit can assist with reversing atherosclerosis and reducing blood pressure levels.4
  • Zinc-rich foods: Consuming foods rich in zinc can help neutralize free radicals that may trigger congestive heart failure. Animal byproducts such as oysters and grass fed beef contain the highest amounts of dietary zinc. Free-range poultry, raw cheese, wild-caught seafood, raw milk kefir and yogurt, beans and sesame and pumpkin seeds are other good sources of zinc.

Foods to Avoid If You Have Congestive Heart Failure

Reduce or avoid drinking alcohol if you have congestive heart failure. Alcohol can interact with medicines, weaken the heart muscle and increase your risk for abnormal heart rhythms. Patients with severe heart failure may also be recommended by a doctor to limit fluid intake.5

When seasoning foods, do so with Himalayan salt, fresh herbs and spices, herbed vinegar and citrus fruit juices. Avoid herb or spice mixtures containing high amounts of sodium, and stay away from, or limit, your intake of condiments that contain high amounts of this substance, such as:6,7

Flavored salts

Lemon pepper

Garlic salt

Onion salt

Meat tenderizers

Flavor enhancers

Bouillon cubes

Ketchup

Mustard

Steak sauce

Soy sauce

Spaghetti sauce

Do not eat foods with hidden salts as well, such as:

Canned food

Processed foods such as gravies, instant cereal, packaged noodles and potato mixes

Olives

Pickles

Soups

Vegetables high in salt

Cheeses

Cured meats like bacon, bologna, hot dogs and sausages

Fast foods

Frozen foods

While patients with congestive heart failure can benefit in some way from restricting the amount of salt they consume, avoiding salt consumption is easier said than done.8 Checking and reading food labels before buying packaged goods is one of the first steps you can take toward lowering salt intake.9

When reading labels, check nutrition facts for sodium content per serving and how many servings are present. Ideally, pick foods with a sodium content that’s below 350 milligrams per serving. Take note of the ingredients list as well. If salt or sodium is listed as one of the first five ingredients, do not buy the item since this can indicate that it has a high sodium content. When eating at a restaurant, follow these tips:10

  • Take note of menu terms that may indicate a high sodium content: These include pickled, au jus, soy sauce or in broth.
  • Request that the cook prepare the dishes without adding salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG): Ask for sauces or salad dressings to be placed on the side. If you’re eating a salad, add a twist of lemon, a splash of vinegar or a light drizzle of low-sodium dressing.
  • Eat raw vegetables or fresh low-fructose fruits in place of salty snacks.

The Drawbacks of Avoiding Salt

Although limiting or reducing your salt intake can be helpful if you have congestive heart failure, think twice about avoiding salt entirely because of possible complications, as highlighted by several studies:

  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2003): In this study, low-sodium diets were linked to increases in LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.11
  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2011): According to researchers, salt restriction wasn’t significantly associated with overall mortality or cardiovascular mortality among those with high or normal blood pressure levels. However, salt restriction was linked to an increased mortality risk among congestive heart failure patients.12
  • JAMA (2011): Results revealed that consuming less than 3,000 milligrams of sodium daily can increase a person’s risk of death from heart disease.13
  • JACC: Heart Failure (2016): in this study, heart failure patients who followed a low-sodium diet were 85 percent more likely to die or require hospitalization compared to those who did not reduce their salt intake. Among subjects who lowered their salt intake, 42 percent died or were hospitalized for heart problems during the study.14,15

Pay Attention to Your Sodium to Potassium Ratio

Paying attention to the ratio between sodium and potassium in your diet makes a difference. The body needs potassium to maintain proper pH levels in your body fluids, and potassium plays an integral role in regulating blood pressure levels.

A potassium deficiency may be more responsible for hypertension (a known risk factor for heart-related problems), rather than having excessive sodium levels. An imbalance in your body’s sodium to potassium ratio can lead to hypertension. Eating processed foods can be a major cause of this imbalance, because they’re low in potassium but high in sodium.

Furthermore, processed foods are loaded with fructose that can raise your risk for hypertension and chronic diseases. When minimizing sodium intake, consume potassium-rich foods such as:16

Swiss chard

Avocado

Spinach

Crimini mushrooms

Broccoli

Celery

Brussels sprouts

Romaine lettuce

Leafy greens

Tomatoes

Sweet potatoes

Wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon

Fruits like melons, bananas, oranges and apricots are good sources of potassium too, although they must be eaten in moderation because of their fructose content.

MORE ABOUT CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE

Congestive Heart Failure: Introduction

What Is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms

Congestive Heart Failure Causes

Congestive Heart Failure Stages

Congestive Heart Failure Life Expectancy

Congestive Heart Failure Treatment

Congestive Heart Failure Prevention

Congestive Heart Failure Diet

Congestive Heart Failure FAQ



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