Adjusting your diet: Salt
Reducing your salt intake can be important for people with heart failure. Your body does need salt to function; however, it only requires very little, and most foods contain salt naturally.
Heart failure causes your body to hold on to extra salt and water, which causes fluid to build up in your body. This extra fluid causes swelling in your ankles, feet or stomach and weight gain. It can also cause congestion of your lungs and make you short of breath. Your heart has to work harder as a result of the extra fluid increasing the volume of blood your heart has to pump around your body.
Salt also makes you thirsty. Therefore, if you eat a lot of salty foods you may want to drink more.
- Try to eat more fruit and vegetables (fresh wherever possible), meat substitutes (such as soya protein), unprocessed foods, low fat dairy products, polyunsaturated fats (such as olive oil), cereals and fish.
- Try adding herbs, spices or fruit juices (lemon/lime) to your meal to add more flavour.
- Remove the salt pot (shaker) from the table so that you are not tempted to add salt to your meal.
- Avoid processed foods which are high in salt, such as ready-made meals, canned vegetables, cheese, processed meats (cold cuts, sausages, hams), packaged cereals, bread, processed tomatoes (ketchup, tomato juice, etc) and condiments (soy and Worcestershire sauces).
- Always check food labels, salt can be found where you may not expect it, for example in carbonated “soda” drinks or ice screams.
- Always check food labels for salt content.
- Be careful what you eat when dining out.
You may find that even if you don’t have the symptoms of fluid build-up or are taking a diuretic, reducing your salt intake will make you feel better. It will also help your treatment work better. A low-salt diet has been shown to play an important part preventing heart disease so you may find that family members and friends, who share your mealtimes/shopping, can also benefit from cutting down on their salt intake.