Brook Remote Care

Week 6 – Nutrition Deep Dive

Heart-healthy Eating

Purpose: To provide more in-depth information about nutrition and eating for a healthy heart.

Time to read: 8 minutes

TABLE OF CONTENTS: 

When you’re experiencing heart failure, there are some nutrition recommendations that may help lessen symptoms and make you more comfortable. 

These recommendations include:

  • Reducing your sodium intake to prevent fluid buildup, a key contributor to heart failure symptoms. 
  • Increasing your consumption of high-potassium foods to help regulate blood pressure and support heart function. 
  • Depending on your individual needs, your healthcare provider may also recommend fluid restriction to maintain a proper fluid balance. 

LIMITING SODIUM

Extra salt or sodium in your diet may increase your blood pressure. It may also cause your body to hold on to more fluids than it needs. 

The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. Some research studies suggest that if you can get your sodium levels to below 1,500 mg per day this will lower blood pressure even more. 

Ways to lower sodium in your daily diet:

  • Read nutrition labels for sodium content.
  • Pick lower sodium alternatives when you buy prepared and canned foods.
  • Focus on fresh or frozen vegetables without added sauces.
  • Limit consumption of packaged meals or snack foods. 
  • Cook with herbs and spices instead of salt.
  • Cook at home rather than eating take-out or restaurant foods. 

 

When reading a nutrition label on a packaged food, here are some tips for determining if it’s a good option.

Serving Size: Start by checking the serving size on the label. It’s important to understand how many servings are in the package as the sodium content listed pertains to a single serving. You may be unintentionally consuming excess sodium if you eat more than one serving. 

Sodium (Salt) Content: Look for the “Sodium” line on the label. This indicates the amount of sodium in milligrams (mg) per serving. It’s recommended for individuals with heart failure to aim for foods with lower sodium content, ideally less than 140 mg per serving, or as recommended by your healthcare provider.

% Daily Value (%DV): The %DV tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. A general guideline is that 5% DV or less of sodium per serving is considered low, while 20% DV or more is high. 

Ingredients List: Examine the ingredients list to identify high-sodium additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrate/nitrite, and sodium benzoate. Be cautious of foods with these additives, as they can significantly increase sodium content.

When shopping, compare similar products to find lower-sodium alternatives. Pay attention to the sodium content in different brands or versions of the same food item.

Keep an eye out for hidden sources of sodium, such as in sauces, gravies, and processed meats. These can contribute significantly to your daily sodium intake.

Many foods now come with “sodium-free” or “low-sodium” labels. These products are specifically designed to help individuals reduce their sodium intake and can be good options for those with heart failure.

REDUCING SODIUM LEVELS

DASH trials compared 3 different daily sodium intake levels (1,500mg, 2,400mg and 3,000 mg levels) and found that diets lowest in sodium (those less than 1,500 mg a day) lowered blood pressure the most. 

Ways to lower sodium in your daily diet:

  • Read nutrition labels for sodium content.
  • Pick lower sodium alternatives when you buy prepared and canned foods.
  • Focus on fresh or frozen vegetables without added sauces.
  • Limit consumption of packaged meals or snack foods. 
  • Cook with herbs and spices instead of salt.
  • Cook at home rather than eating take-out or restaurant foods.

INCREASING FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Fruits and vegetables are generally high in potassium, which can be depleted by some treatments for congestive heart failure (CHF). Potassium and sodium work together in our blood to regulate our blood pressure. When your diet is higher in sodium than in potassium, it can create an imbalance in your blood that can increase our blood pressure.

Increasing the fruits and vegetables in your diet will help increase the amount of potassium you eat, which can be helpful for lowering blood pressure and recovering the lost potassium from CHF treatment.

Good sources of potassium include:

Vegetables

Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Winter Squash

Avocado

Cucumber

Tomato

Fruits

Bananas

Apricots

Honeydew Melon

Cantaloupe

Oranges

FLUID RESTRICTION

Unless it’s been specifically recommended by your doctor to limit fluid intake, it’s not necessary to do so.

Sudden shifts in body weight may indicate that you are retaining too much fluid. If this happens, your doctor may want to make changes to your treatment plan. Your doctor may also want you to limit the amount of fluids you drink and eat each day. This is because the more fluids you drink, the higher your volume of blood which can create more pressure on your heart. The exact amount would be prescribed by your doctor. 

 

What Counts as a Fluid:

Any food or drink that is a liquid at room temperature should be considered part of your daily fluid intake. Items include:

  • Water and ice cubes
  • Juice, milk, and soft drinks
  • Coffee and tea
  • Alcohol
  • Soups
  • Some desserts that turn liquid when they cool like popsicles, ice cream, or Jell-O

 

Ways to help reduce fluids in your diet and deal with thirst:

  • Track your daily fluid intake. Use a fluid measuring cup to measure out your total recommended intake for the day
  • Drain liquid off of containers of fruits or yogurts
  • Sip your fluids slowly
  • Use small glasses and cups and know how much each holds
  • Brush your teeth and rinse you mouth out often
  • Use lip balm or petroleum jelly to keep your lips dry
  • Chew sugar free gum or suck on sugar free hard candies

ADDITIONAL DIETARY CHANGES THAT MAY HELP HEART FAILURE

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals and snacks
  • Limit daily caffeine intake if recommended by your doctor
  • Limit the amount of fat you consume, particularly saturated and trans fat. Need a refresher on healthy fats and their sources? You can go back to last week’s module, Nutrition 101, by tapping the back arrow in the upper left and selecting Week 5. 
  • Follow a balanced diet overall using the Brook Healthy Plate method to build meals and snacks.

NEXT STEPS

  1. Now that you have logged meals for at least a week, it’s important to check your meals with your weight and blood oxygen readings. You can do this by looking at your meal macronutrient breakdowns (in the meals you have logged) and looking at your weight and blood oxygen readings in the Profile section of the app. Pay attention to your sodium and potassium intake. 
  2. Model your meals after the Brook Healthy Plate for at least 5 meals this week. 
  3. Feel like you need more support? Check in with your Care Team (Registered Nurse and Health Coaches) for additional support. 
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Image of Brook Health Expert Kelsea
Reviewed by Kelsea Hoover, MS, RDN

as of September 2023. Kelsea is a Registered Dietitian with her Masters degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University.

Disclaimer:

Always be sure to reach out to your healthcare team when making changes to your diet or lifestyle. There are certain conditions and medications that need to be considered.