The Salty Six are foods high in sodium that you should avoid or eat minimally in order to maintain healthy blood pressure.

Brooke Sawicki, MS, RD, LDN
Outpatient Registered Dietitian
University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center

This is the third in a three-part series about nutrition for heart failure patients. The first is about general nutrition and the second focuses on fiber and fats.

What is sodium?

Sodium is a mineral that our bodies need to control fluid balance and send nerve impulses; it also affects muscle function. Too much sodium in our diet can be harmful and can lead to high blood pressure and fluid retention. This can cause bloating, swelling, and weight gain. Sodium is mostly found in table salt that is added during cooking or at the table. Processed foods like bread, pizza, lunch meats, canned goods, frozen foods, and seasoning blends can also have lots of sodium. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends having less than 2,300mg of sodium per day. For example, one teaspoon of salt has about 2,300mg of sodium.

How do I reduce my sodium intake?

One way to limit sodium intake includes comparing different brands of foods and choosing the option with the lowest amount of sodium per serving. You should also look for reduced or low-sodium on the food label. Flavoring food with herbs and spices instead of salt is a great way to have tasty foods with low sodium. You should rinse canned goods with water prior to cooking. Additionally, using salt-substitutes instead of salt will reduce your sodium intake. Be careful of salt-substitutes if you have a history of kidney disease, as salt-substitutes often contain potassium. Too much potassium can be harmful in those with kidney disease, so talk to your doctor about the right amount of potassium for you.

What is added sugar?

Sugar can be naturally be found in foods like fruits, starchy vegetables, grains, beans and legumes, milk and yogurt. These foods also provide our body with nutrients. We do not want to restrict our intake of these. Added sugar is any sugar that is added to a product during processing. These are mostly found in products like sodas, cakes, cookies, candy, pies, and ice cream. Added sugars can cause to weight gain, which can increase risk for heart disease as well as diabetes. The AHA recommends limiting added sugar intake to no more than 100 calories or 6 teaspoons of sugar per day for women and 150 calories or 9 teaspoons of sugar per day for men.

For More Information

For more information and heart healthy recipes, check out The American Heart Association website.

If you have specific questions about your dietary intake or would like more information on a dietary plan that is right for you, make sure you meet with a Registered Dietitian. They are the experts in the field! To reach UM BWMC's Digestive Health Center, please call 410-553-8146.