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What Is a Good Diet After Open Heart Surgery?

author image Chris Passas
Chris Passas is a freelance writer from Nags Head, N.C. He graduated from East Carolina University in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He has written online instructional articles since September 2009.
What Is a Good Diet After Open Heart Surgery?
Salmon fillets on two plates Photo Credit: OlenaMykhaylova/iStock/Getty Images

A good diet after open heart surgery is one that follows the dietary guidelines your doctor or dietitian specifies for your condition. Dietary guidelines may vary depending on your overall health and specific calorie needs, but there is some general advice that people can follow when structuring their diets after open heart surgery.

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Sodium Restriction

Cardiac patients should adhere to a diet that limits sodium intake to no more than 2,000 milligrams per day to avoid fluid retention and prevent excessive stress on the heart. Your doctor may limit this to 1,500 milligrams a day, the American Heart Association guidelines for people with heart disease. Your doctor may prescribe a water pill that helps rid your body of sodium and fluid.

Avoiding Unhealthy Foods

Eating healthy foods is essential to recovery after open heart surgery to supply your body with adequate nutrients while maintaining a healthy weight. Obesity stresses the heart, requiring a greater amount of oxygen to pump blood throughout the body. You should limit your consumption of foods that contain processed sugar. You should also restrict your fat intake to 30 percent of your daily caloric intake because some medications may increase the amount of fat in your blood, notes the University of Southern California's Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Less than 7 percent of your calories should come from saturated fat, which mainly comes from animal sources. Trim all visible fat from meat before cooking and eat no more than 3 oz. of meat per day. Less than 1 percent of your calories should come from trans fat, which is found in margarine and processed foods. You should also consume less than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day.

Foods to Include In Your Diet

Choose foods that contain protein without an excessive amount of cholesterol. Such foods include beans, fish, peas and skinless poultry. You should consume fish, especially oily fish, which contains heart-healthy fats, twice a week. You should also include low-fat or nonfat dairy products, such as skim milk and nonfat yogurt, in your daily diet. Avoid cheeses that contain an excessive amount of saturated fat. Instead, choose low-fat cheeses such as farmer's cheese, part-skim ricotta and low-fat cottage cheese. Include more carbohydrates, particularly whole grains, in your diet. Additionally, consume a variety of fruits and vegetables, as most are fat-free and provide your body with an assortment of vitamins and minerals.

Dealing With Lack of Appetite

Recovering from surgery can be an exhausting process that at times leaves you lacking an appetite or feeling nausea. You can eat smaller meals at more frequent intervals throughout the day if you feel like you don’t have the appetite for less frequent larger meals. The University of Southern California's Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery suggests calling your doctor if nausea and lack of appetite persist.

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