What Foods To Eat & Avoid After Coronary Bypass Surgery

If you’ve recently had coronary bypass surgery or are about to get one, you may wonder what foods to eat and avoid after the surgery.

Coronary heart surgery is not a cure for heart disease. 

So, in order to maintain your heart health, the lifestyle habits you include (nutrition, exercise, stress, and sleep) all play a role in preventing any possible heart damage after the surgery. 

Here, we’ll go over the foods to avoid and those you should eat after coronary bypass surgery. 

Foods To Avoid After Coronary Bypass Surgery

Choosing a heart-healthy diet is crucial to support your recovery after surgery and maintain optimal heart health.

Here are some foods you may want to avoid after coronary bypass surgery to keep your heart healthy. 

1) High sodium foods

Studies show that a large sodium intake can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Keep your sodium intake to the minimum (1,500 mg per day) or the recommended intake set by your doctor. 

To avoid adding too much sodium to your diet, avoid the following foods:

  • Canned foods
  • Dehydrated soups
  • Cured meats
  • Sausages
  • Highly processed foods

2) Refined grains

These are low in fiber and nutrients, which can increase the risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. 

Aim to avoid the following foods after coronary heart surgery:

  • White bread
  • White pasta
  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Pastries
  • Breakfast cereal

3) Trans fats

Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils have been linked to heart disease since they can increase cholesterol levels. 

Avoid the following: 

  • Fast foods
  • Fried foods
  • Margarine
  • Processed foods that use hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) oils

4) High-fat foods

While the studies are mixed regarding the consumption of saturated fats, the American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 5-6% of calories from saturated fats. 

So, avoiding the following high-saturated fat foods after coronary bypass surgery is best:

  • Fatty meats
  • Chicken skin
  • High-fat cheese
  • Butter
  • Processed meats

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What To Eat After Coronary Heart Surgery

Including the right foods in your diet will allow you to heal properly after surgery and protect your heart against any future damage. 

Here is a list of foods worth eating after coronary bypass surgery. 

1) Fruits and vegetables

They are high in fiber and antioxidants. Research shows fiber can help reduce cholesterol levels, and antioxidants can help reduce oxidative stress, which reduces inflammation. 

Add many different colored fruits and vegetables to get different nutrients throughout the day. 

2) Whole grains and legumes

Instead of refined grains, opt for whole grains and legumes since they are higher in fiber and nutrients. 

Opt for whole-grain bread, pasta, oatmeal, corn, beans, lentils, quinoa, and chickpeas. 

3) Herbs and spices

Leading a low-sodium diet can become boring if you don’t know how to properly do it. 

Using natural herbs and spices will allow you to add flavor to your meals without too much sodium. 

4) Lean protein

Protein can help heal your wound, support muscle mass, and improve your metabolism. But make sure you opt for lean protein to avoid adding too many saturated fats to your diet. 

Great options include chicken, fish, turkey, beef, and pork (just make sure they are the right cuts). 

5) Fatty fish

Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are high in fat but contain omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows can help reduce inflammation and promote heart health. 

6) Nuts and seeds

Options like walnuts, peanuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds are high in fiber and omega-3, which can help improve heart health. Just make sure you opt for unsalted options. 

Foods to eatFoods to avoid
Fruits and vegetablesHigh-sodium foods
Whole grains and legumesRefined grains
Herbs and spicesTrans fats
Lean proteinHigh-fat foods
Fatty fishHighly processed foods
Nuts and seeds

Lifestyle Habits To Change After Heart Surgery

Nutrition is not the only factor affecting your recovery and heart health. Stress, exercise, sleep, and hydration all play an important role. 

You may want to avoid these lifestyle habits to improve heart health. 

Too much stress

Your emotional and mental well-being can affect your heart. Too much cortisol can lead to unwanted negative outcomes. 

Make sure you control your stress levels through different strategies like meditation, yoga, walking, or having a support group. 

Leading a sedentary lifestyle

Exercise can make your heart stronger (but there is also too much exercise). Strive for at least 150 minutes of light to moderate exercise. 

Make sure you talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program after coronary heart surgery. 

Have a high weight

Excess weight can put a lot of pressure on your heart and blood vessels. Track your weight and opt for healthy ways to help you lose weight instead of relying on fad diets. 

Drinking alcohol

Alcohol can increase triglycerides, which makes the blood thicker and increases the risk of blood clots. 

While you don’t need to eliminate alcohol, make sure you are drinking in moderation. 


Since smoking affects your lungs, it can make your heart work harder. It also raises blood pressure and reduces the oxygen and nutrients in the blood. 

If you are currently smoking, search for ways to help you stop or reduce smoking. 

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Tips For A Smooth Recovery After Bypass Surgery

Follow Your Doctor’s Advice

If you want the best recovery, listen to all your doctor’s advice and follow them to the letter. This means taking all the medication at the recommended time and during the time length discussed. 

Diet And Exercise

Avoid strenuous exercise after recovery and have a healthy diet immediately after surgery. 

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Another important factor is cardiac rehabilitation. There are specialists that can help you recover from the surgery and encourage a healthy heart. 

Report Any Side Effects Or Concerning Symptoms

Finally, contact your doctor if you experience any side effects or feel any different after your surgery. The more communication you have, the better your recovery will be. 


While undergoing coronary bypass surgery can be challenging, proper post-operative care, including a balanced diet, is essential for a smooth recovery.

You can have a healthy and long life if you take the right care of your body and heart. 

Avoiding processed foods that are high in saturated fats and sodium will prevent putting too much strain on your heart. 

Instead, opt for foods high in nutrients, antioxidants, fiber, healthy fats, and lean protein to encourage a good recovery and reduce the risk of heart disease in the future. 

In addition, remember that controlling stress, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing alcohol, and eliminating smoking can all play a role in keeping your heart strong and healthy. 

If you still have concerns regarding your recovery, make sure you talk with your doctor to understand the most effective methods to promote your heart health. 

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  1. Grillo A, Salvi L, Coruzzi P, Salvi P, Parati G. Sodium Intake and Hypertension. Nutrients. 2019 Aug 21;11(9):1970. doi: 10.3390/nu11091970. PMID: 31438636; PMCID: PMC6770596.
  2. Iqbal MP. Trans fatty acids – A risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Pak J Med Sci. 2014 Jan;30(1):194-7. doi: 10.12669/pjms.301.4525. PMID: 24639860; PMCID: PMC3955571.
  3. Brown L, Rosner B, Willett WW, Sacks FM. Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Jan;69(1):30-42. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/69.1.30. PMID: 9925120.
  4. Jain AP, Aggarwal KK, Zhang PY. Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015;19(3):441-5. PMID: 25720716.

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