Preparing healthy meals that taste good and meet the dietary needs of your loved one with congestive heart failure (CHF) can be difficult, especially if you’re not familiar with the disease. However, the proper diet can help your loved one feel better, improve their quality of life, and even slow the progression of the disease. Here are some dietary tips to consider when cooking for family members with CHF.
Do Not Consume
- Foods high in sodium
Your doctor will likely recommend that you reduce your sodium intake. This is because increased sodium levels in your body can cause fluid retention, which may make congestive heart failure symptoms worse.
Alcohol is extremely bad for people with congestive heart failure. It causes fluid retention, leading to a worsening of CHF symptoms, including shortness of breath and swelling in your extremities. Even moderate alcohol consumption—just two drinks per day—can have detrimental effects for individuals with CHF. If you have been diagnosed with CHF, talk to your doctor about whether or not it’s safe for you to consume alcohol in moderation.
- Foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat
High cholesterol and saturated fat can elevate your LDL or bad cholesterol. A high in cholesterol and saturated fat diet has been linked to an increased risk of developing congestive heart failure. Many foods high in saturated fat include butter, cream, ice cream, full-fat dairy products, bacon, red meat, and processed meats. Replace them with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as beans and legumes.
- Processed grains
Anything made with refined grains and white flour is a definite no-no. These types of carbohydrates rapidly break down into glucose and can cause dangerous spikes in blood sugar levels. When blood sugar rises, so does your heart rate—and that’s not good for anyone with CHF.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are critical to a healthy diet for all who may have trouble chewing or digesting food. They provide fiber, which is essential for digestion. Eating whole grains is also important because they contain B vitamins that help your body’s metabolic process.
- Herbs and spices
Turmeric, rosemary, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, and oregano are all some great herbs for us on a diet to consume. These herbs have anti-inflammatory properties which help with inflammation related to CHF. Black pepper is also an excellent addition to meals as it helps increase the absorption of turmeric into your body.
- Healthy fat
Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, which can help lower your risk of developing other health problems like diabetes and cancer. Healthy fats are also crucial for brain function, growth, and development. You can get omega-3s from fish or fish oil supplements; flaxseeds, nuts, avocados, and leafy greens are also rich in healthy fats. But limit your intake of saturated fat, which is present in red meat and dairy products. Saturated fat has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Foods high in fiber
High-fiber foods aid in digestion and help lower cholesterol. They’re also filling, which means they can help you eat less and lose weight. High-fiber foods include whole grains, nuts, seeds, dried beans, and peas.