Nutrition Tips Top HeartBrothers Patient Support Group Meeting

Heart failure patients and transplant survivors learned important nutrition tips at the HeartBrothers Patient Support Group meeting on January 13. Tufts Medical Center heart failure dietician Lauren Parsly shared up-to-date information and answered questions during the virtual get-together.


“Sodium is really confusing because it’s in almost everything that we eat,” Parsley warned. “You have to do a lot of detective work. Look at labels and look at what you’re making at home.”

Heart failure patients should eat no more than 2,000 mg of sodium per day, Parsly recommended.

“The real heavy hitters – the things you want to be most careful about – are processed deli meats, sauces, marinades, canned products, and, especially, eating out. The more you can prepare foods at home, that’s the best way to limit salt.

“If you are eating out, be aware that stuff is going to be high in sodium,” Parsley added. “Stay away from soups at a restaurant. There can be at least 1,000 milligrams of sodium in one bowl of soup.”

Parsly recommended the book 500 Low Sodium Recipes by Dick Logue. She also urged people to check out HealthyHeartMarket.com. “They have a variety of products that specialize in lower-sodium items.”

It’s important to get a lot of protein, Parsley emphasized. “Chicken, fish, meat, turkey, eggs, beans—the unsalted options.”

Eating Post-Transplant

Parsly offered several suggestions on what and how to eat after a heart transplant.

“When you’re eating meat and proteins, make sure things are thoroughly cooked. Avoid sushi and undercooked foods. Your fruits and veggies need to be washed really well.

“Things like salad bars and buffets, you never know how long those things have been sitting out so we do recommend avoiding those. And avoid eating out for a few months after transplant.”

When it comes to water, city water and bottled water are fine, but well water should be avoided.

Soft Cheeses, Raw Honey, Acai Berries?

After her presentation, Parsly answered questions from several people, including Glenda who asked about soft cheeses.

“You can eat soft cheeses after a transplant, just make sure they are made from pasteurized milk,” Parsly answered. “Have feta, have brie. Just choose pasteurized milk. I don’t want to take cheese away from anybody!”

Ron asked about raw honey.

“This is a great question. It’s come up a lot. You can have raw honey. It’s really shown now that it’s only children under one that shouldn’t have it because of the spores, but it’s not a concern for transplant patients.”

Chip, who has a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), asked about the safety of Lion’s Mane mushroom supplements, which his wife puts in coffee.

“If you’re taking Coumadin, it’s recommended to avoid herbal supplements because they can interfere with coumadin’s effectiveness,” Parsley advised.

Debbie, who received her transplant a year ago, asked about ways to eat more protein without increasing her potassium levels.

“This is challenging because all proteins have potassium in them,” Parsley said. She suggested eggs, nuts, cheese, protein bars, and shakes.

Larry asked about acai berry drinks, which have become popular in the last few years.

“Check the packaging to make sure what other ingredients are in it,” Parsly warned. “The berry itself should be okay. Whole foods are less concerning.

“When any food claims that it can do wonders, be wary,” she added. “No one food out there is a miracle food so just be careful with that.”

After the nutrition discussion, people stayed in the meeting for more than an hour sharing their stories and advice.

The HeartBrothers’ Patient Support Group meets virtually the second Thursday of each month at 6 pm Eastern. MORE INFORMATION.

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