What to Eat with Atrial Fibrillation

Yumhee Park | Oct 31, 2014

Reviewed by Glenn Gandelman, M.D., M.P.H.

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Living with atrial fibrillation might seem like you have to restrict intake of many different kinds of foods, but eating healthy also can mean opening yourself up to a whole new world of diverse foods. Here are some things you can eat with afib that can help manage and even reverse this heart condition.

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Change to low-sodium

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Maintaining a low-sodium diet is one of the more important diet changes you can make when you are living with afib. But, how exactly do you do that? Here are some changes you can make.

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Use herbs and spices instead of salt

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Whether it’s table salt or sea salt, salt is salt. To best control sodium intake, it’s best to cut out salt altogether. Instead, try using herbs and spices to flavor your cooking.

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Stick to fresh or frozen meats instead of cured or smoked

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Cured or smoked meats are made by utilizing lots and lots of salt. Instead of the extra salt, season fresh meats with herbs and spices and bake or grill to your liking.

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Yogurt instead of cheese

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Some cheeses can have more than 1000 mg of sodium. For your dairy fix, try a good old glass of milk or even better, some Greek strained yogurt. Yogurt also provides benefits for your gut that can help with digestion and heart health.

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Eat bananas and fresh fruit instead of packaged fruit cups

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Fresh fruit provides lots of nutrients; bananas especially may be beneficial in managing afib due to their high potassium levels. Low potassium levels may increase your risk of arrhythmia, so instead of going for the packaged fruit cups with loads of extra sugars, stick to fresh fruit.

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Go homemade instead of canned

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Canned foods in general have a lot of sodium to preserve the contents. Instead of canned meals, go for fresh homemade meals that usually taste better. Though it might be more work, in the long-run your body and heart will thank you.

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Change to more antioxidants

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Many studies have shown the beneficial effect of including more antioxidants into your diet, including some that have found that they help treat arrhythmia associated with afib and may even help spur reversal of the condition. Here are antioxidant powerhouses to include into your diet.

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Berries of all kinds, and especially blueberries, carry lots of powerful antioxidants that help the heart. Try making a fruit salad out of berries and topping it off with some Greek yogurt.

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Nuts are well known to help your heart by lowering cholesterol, so it’s not a surprise that they should be a staple in your diet if you are living with afib. Try a handful of raw nuts like almonds or walnuts for an afternoon pick me up.

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Green tea

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Instead of reaching for that afternoon coffee, try a small cup of green tea instead. Although both contain caffeine which may increase your heart rate, green tea has much less caffeine and packs an antioxidant boost.

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Change to a Mediterranean diet

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The Mediterranean diet combines healthy foods mainly consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other goodies into amazing, heart-healthy dishes. Here’s a breakdown of the diet that you can begin incorporating.

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Plant-based foods

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The Greek are big on their fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – it constitutes the majority of their diet. A Mediterranean diet bases every meal on these foods.

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Olive oil instead of butter

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People have really embraced olive oil as a healthy alternative to butter and for good reason. Olive oil is full of healthy fats with monounsaturated fatty acids that help the heart.

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Fish and poultry instead of red meat

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As many studies and medical literature have noted, red meat is not particularly good for the heart. Opt for lean meats like poultry and fish for your protein. But remember, the main act of a Mediterranean diet is plant-based foods, so keep meats as a side dish instead of the main meal.