5 Foods to Avoid When You Have Heart Failure

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Elizabeth Hanes, RN on September 1, 2020
  • Closeup on young woman eating healthy breakfast
    What to Avoid in a Congestive Heart Failure Diet
    Sometimes it’s easier to subtract than to add. If you have heart failure, you can improve your quality of life by reducing or eliminating certain foods from your diet. Foods to avoid with heart failure​ are those that increase fluid retention, contribute to blood sugar problems, or lead to obesity. By nixing these five types of foods and beverages from your diet, you’ll stay healthier and make it easier for your heart to do its job.
  • Ssalt on Spoon
    1. Salt (Sodium)
    When you have heart failure, you absolutely must avoid salt. Sodium manages to sneak into even the healthiest-sounding foods, like cottage cheese. To reduce your sodium intake on a congestive heart failure diet, first stop adding table salt to your food. Next, read package labels carefully. You may be surprised to discover how much sodium lurks in those corn flakes or that diet soda. Finally, if you’re eating in a restaurant always ask for your food to be prepared with “no added salt or MSG.” Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a popular flavor enhancer, is just a different kind of salt.
  • Directly Above Shot Of Potato Chips In Plate On Table
    2. Potato Chips
    Potato chips represent a classic “worst food” for people with heart failure because they’re high in both fat and sodium. When you have heart failure, you should maintain a healthy weight, high-fat snacks definitely don’t help you achieve that goal. To avoid weight gain while on a heart failure diet, don’t eat snacks like tortilla chips, pretzels, snack mixes, and even some types of crackers. Instead, snack on fresh vegetables and fruits, which are low in fat and high in fiber.
  • male holding glass of red wine
    3. Wine
    You may have heard about the heart health benefits of drinking red wine. And that may be true if your heart is healthy. With heart failure, though, the essential problem is your heart can’t pump very well anymore. Alcohol can make this problem worse by slowing down your heart rate. That’s why most doctors recommend you avoid all types of alcohol (including beer and mixed drinks) when you have heart failure.
  • sliced-white-bread
    4. White Bread
    Heart failure often co-exists with other conditions, like high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Eating highly processed grains like white bread does your body no favors because these foods lack healthful fiber. Dietary fiber (also called “roughage”) helps your body regulate blood sugar levels and scrub cholesterol from your arteries. When you have heart failure, you should avoid white bread, white rice, regular pasta, many boxed breakfast cereals, and other processed grains.
  • Close-Up Of Water Pouring In Glass
    5. Water
    “Drink more water” has become a sort-of mantra for healthy living, but it’s bad advice for anyone with heart failure. Drinking a lot of water (or any beverage) leads to excessive fluid levels inside your body, which increases the workload on your weakened heart. If you have heart failure, you should carefully manage your fluid intake, including tracking all the beverages you drink. According to Cleveland Clinic, you should limit your fluid intake to less than two liters per day. However, you should consult your doctor for specific guidelines.
Congestive Heart Failure Diet: 5 Foods to Avoid
  1. Heart Failure - Nutrition. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/disorders/heart-failure-what-is/nutrition_hf
  2. Heart Failure. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/heartfailure.html#cat78
  3. Heart Failure Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/DHDSP/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_failure.htm
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Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 1
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.