Heart Failure and a Low-Salt Diet

People with heart failure may improve their symptoms by reducing the amount of sodium in their diet. Sodium is a mineral found in many foods, especially salt. Eating too much salt causes the body to keep or retain too much water, worsening the fluid buildup that happens with heart failure.

Following a low-salt diet helps keep high blood pressure and swelling (also called edema) under control. It can also make breathing easier if you have heart failure.

You should have no more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium each day if you’ve got heart failure. Less than 1,500 mg a day is ideal.

But how do you do that?

Sodium Content of Food

Whether you’re living with heart failure or not, it’s important how much sodium certain foods contain. Here’s a quick glance of some more popular foods.

Note: These are ranges. The sodium content in certain food items may vary.

Food

Serving Size

Milligrams Sodium

Protein

Bacon

1 medium slice

155

Chicken (dark meat)

3.5 oz roasted

87

Chicken (light meat)

3.5 oz roasted

77

Egg, fried

1 large

162

Egg, scrambled with milk

1 large

171

Dried beans, peas, or lentils

1 cup

4

Haddock

3 oz cooked

74

Halibut

3 oz cooked

59

Ham (roasted)

3.5 oz

1,300 to 1,500

Hamburger (lean)

3.5 oz broiled medium

77

Hot dog, beef

1 medium

585

Peanuts, dry roasted

1 oz

228

Pork loin, roasted

3.5 oz

65

Roast lamb leg

3.5 oz

65

Roast veal leg

3.5 oz

68

Salmon

3 oz

50

Shellfish

3 oz

100 to 325

Shrimp

3 oz

190

Spareribs, braised

3.5 oz

93

Steak, T-bone

3.5 oz

66

Tuna, canned in spring water

3 oz. chunk white

300

Turkey (dark meat)

3.5 oz roasted

76

Turkey (light meat)

3.5 oz roasted

63

Dairy Products

American cheese

1 oz

443

Buttermilk, salt added

1 cup

260

Cheddar cheese

1 oz

175

Cottage cheese, low-fat

1 cup

918

Milk, whole

1 cup

120

Milk, skim or 1%

1 cup

125

Swiss cheese

1 oz

75

Yogurt, plain

1 cup

115

Vegetables and vegetable juices

Asparagus

6 spears

10

Avocado

1/2 medium

10

Beans, white cooked

1 cup

4

Beans, green

1 cup

4

Beets

1 cup

84

Broccoli, raw

1/2 cup

12

Broccoli, cooked

1/2 cup

20

Carrot, raw

1 medium

25

Carrot, cooked

1/2 cup

52

Celery

1 stalk raw

35

Corn (sweet, no butter/salt)

1/2 cup boiled

14

Cucumber

1/2 cup sliced

1

Eggplant, raw

1 cup

2

Eggplant, cooked

1 cup

4

Lettuce

1 leaf

2

Lima beans

1 cup

5

Mushrooms

1/2 cup (raw or cooked)

1 to 2

Mustard greens

1/2 cup chopped

12

Onion, chopped

1/2 cup (raw or cooked)

2 to 3

Peas

1 cup

4

Potato

1 baked

7

Radishes

10

11

Spinach, raw

1/2 cup

22

Spinach, cooked

1/2 cup

63

Squash, acorn

1/2 cup

4

Sweet potato

1 small

12

Tomato

1 medium

11

Tomato juice, canned

3/4 cup

660

Fruits and fruit juices

Apple

1 medium

1

Apple juice

1 cup

7

Apricots

3 medium

1

Apricots (dried)

10 halves

3

Banana

1 medium

1

Cantaloupe

1/2 cup chopped

14

Dates

10 medium

2

Grapes

1 cup

2

Grape juice

1 cup

7

Grapefruit

1/2 medium

0

Grapefruit juice

1 cup

3

Orange

1 medium

1

Orange juice

1 cup

2

Peach

1

0

Prunes (dried)

10

3

Raisins

1/3 cup

6

Strawberries

1 cup

2

Watermelon

1 cup

3

Breads and grains

Bran flakes

3/4 cup

220

Bread, whole wheat

1 slice

159

Bread, white

1 slice

123

Bun, hamburger

1

241

Cooked cereal (instant)

1 packet

250

Corn flakes

1 cup

290

English muffin

1/2

182

Pancake

1 (7-inch round)

431

Rice, white long grain

1 cup

4

Shredded wheat

1 biscuit

0

Spaghetti

1 cup

7

Waffle

1 frozen

235

Convenience foods

Canned soups

1 cup

600 to 1,300

Canned and frozen main dishes

8 oz

500 to 2,570

Continued

Once you know how much sodium foods have, the next step is building a diet around that knowledge. Here’s some information to get you started.

Protein

You should have two or three servings of protein each day. But how much is a serving?

  • 2-3 ounces of fresh or frozen fish, shellfish, meat (beef, veal, lamb, pork), or poultry
  • 1/2 cup cooked dried beans or peas
  • 1/2 cup low-salt canned fish (such as salmon or tuna)
  • 1 low-sodium frozen dinner (less than 600 milligrams of sodium per meal; limit to one per day)
  • 1 egg

Dairy Products

Two or more servings a day is the sweet spot here. Examples of a serving include:

  • 2-3 ounces of low-sodium cheese
  • 1 cup milk (fat-free, 1%, 2%, or whole)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium cottage cheese
  • 1 cup soy milk

Vegetables and Fruits

Your goal here is five servings per day. One could contain:

  • 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, frozen, or canned fruit
  • 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, frozen, or no-salt added canned vegetables
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium tomato juice or vegetable juice
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium tomato sauce

Bread and Grains

You should get six or more servings of these every day. One equals:

  • 1 slice low-sodium bread, 1 small low-sodium roll, 1/2 low-sodium bagel
  • 1/2 cup pasta (noodles, spaghetti, macaroni)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • Low-sodium crackers (read label for serving size)

Sweets and Snacks

Everyone needs a snack every now and then. Make sure it’s every now and then, and choose:

  • 2 1/2 ounces unsalted nuts
  • 1 slice angel food cake
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium potato chips, pretzels, popcorn, and other snacks
  • 1 tablespoon jelly or honey
  • 1 cup sherbet, sorbet, or Italian ice
  • 1 ice pop
  • 3 fig bars or gingersnaps
  • 8-10 jelly beans; 3 pieces hard candy

Fats, Oils and Condiments

Use these as much as you can.

  • Vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Herbs and spices without salt

Use these only when you have to.

  • Olive and canola oils
  • Low-sodium butter and margarine
  • Low-sodium soups
  • Low-sodium salad dressing
  • Homemade gravy without salt
  • Low-sodium broth or bouillon
  • Low-sodium catsup
  • Low-sodium mustard
  • Low-sodium sauce mixes

Continued

Need help putting a menu together? Here’s one to get you started.

Breakfast

  • Fresh fruit
  • Low-sodium cereal (hot or cold)
  • Milk

Lunch

  • Lean roast turkey on whole wheat bread with low-sodium mustard
  • Raw carrot sticks
  • Applesauce
  • Milk
  • Vanilla wafers

Dinner

  • Grilled chicken
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Steamed fresh vegetables
  • Tossed salad and low-sodium dressing
  • Fresh melon

Snacks

  • Fruit
  • Walnuts or almonds
  • Raisins
  • Yogurt

Cooking Tips

  • Use fresh ingredients or foods with no added salt.
  • For favorite recipes, you may need to use other ingredients and delete or decrease the salt added. Salt can be removed from any recipe except from those containing yeast.
  • Avoid convenience foods such as canned soups, entrées, and vegetables, pasta and rice mixes, frozen dinners, instant cereal, and puddings and gravy sauce mixes.
  • Select frozen entrées that contain 600 milligrams or less of salt, but only eat one of these frozen foods per day. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the package for sodium content.
  • Use fresh, frozen, no-added-salt canned vegetables, or canned vegetables that have been rinsed before they are prepared.
  • Low-sodium canned soups may be used.
  • Avoid mixed seasonings and spice blends that include salt, such as garlic salt.
  • Before using a salt substitute, check with your doctor.

Salt-Substitute Seasonings

Cutting down on salt doesn’t mean your food has to be bland. There are healthy blends you can make at home.

Directions: Combine all ingredients in small bowl and blend well. Spoon into shaker. Store in a cool, dark place.

Spicy Blend

  • 2 Tbsp dried savory, crumbled
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder

Salt-less Surprise

  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp powdered lemon rind or dehydrated lemon juice

Herb Seasoning

  • 2 Tbsp dried dill weed or basil leaves, crumbled
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 2 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano leaves, crumbled
  • Pinch freshly ground pepper

Spicy Seasoning

  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp coriander seed (crushed)
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary

Continued

Restaurant Dining Tips

Eventually, you’ll eat at a restaurant. You don’t have to fall off the wagon. There are choices you can make for every course.

Appetizers

  • Select fresh fruit or vegetables.
  • Avoid soups and broths.
  • Stay away from bread and rolls with salty, buttery crusts.

Salads

  • Select fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid pickles, canned or marinated vegetables, cured meats, seasoned croutons, cheeses, salted seeds.
  • Order salad dressings on the side and use small amounts of them.

Main Courses

  • Select plain foods including broiled, grilled or roasted meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish.
  • Select plain vegetables, potatoes, and noodles.
  • Ask the server about the low-salt menu choices and ask how the food is prepared.
  • Request food to be cooked without salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Avoid restaurants that do not allow for special food preparation (such as buffet-style restaurants or diners).
  • Avoid casseroles, mixed dishes, gravy, and sauces.
  • Avoid fast food restaurants.
  • Avoid salted condiments and garnishes such as olives and pickles.

Desserts

  • Select fresh fruits, ices, ice cream, sherbet, gelatin, and plain cakes.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on May 07, 2016

Sources

SOURCE:

Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, 16th edition, 1994, Bowes & Church.

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