Eating For Heart Health With Diabetes

man eating a salmon salad for lunchDiabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, when compared to people without diabetes, people with diabetes have twice the risk of developing heart disease, twice the risk of having a heart attack, a greater chance of dying from a heart attack, and four times the risk of having a stroke. That is why it is so important for people who have diabetes to follow a heart healthy eating plan.

A heart healthy eating plan is one that lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and reduces your risk for heart disease. However, a heart healthy eating plan is more than just avoiding fat, cholesterol, and sodium; it’s the overall pattern of your choices that counts.

As you make your daily food choices, base your eating pattern on these recommendations from the American Heart Association:

Eat a variety of fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruits without high-calorie sauces or added salt and sugars. Replace high-calorie foods with fruits and vegetables.

Choose fiber-rich whole grains such as brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, oatmeal, wild rice, and whole-wheat bread, crackers, pasta, and tortillas for most grain servings. Limit additional butter, margarine, mayonnaise, shortening, and oil.

Choose poultry and fish without skin and prepare them in healthy ways such as broiling, steaming, or grilling without added saturated and trans If you choose to eat meat buy cuts of beef, pork, ham, and lamb that have only a little fat on them. Look for the words “loin” or “round” in their names.

Eat a variety of fish at least twice a week, especially fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, and herring.

Select fat-free (skim) and low-fat (1%) milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.

Limit saturated fat and trans fat and replace them with the better fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Saturated fat is found mostly in foods that come from animals, such as meat, lard, bacon, poultry, dairy products, butter fat, and eggs. Vegetable oils such as canola, olive, and peanut oils are monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fat is found mostly in vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, corn, and flaxseed.

Lower Your Blood Cholesterol

If you need to lower your blood cholesterol, reduce saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of total calories. For someone eating 2,000 calories a day, that’s about 13 grams of saturated fat.

  • Cut back on beverages and foods withadded sugars such as regular soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks, ice-cream and sweetened yogurt. Women should have no more than six teaspoons added sugar per day and men no more than nine teaspoons sugar daily.
  • Choose foods with less sodium and prepare foods with little or no salt. To lower blood pressure, aim to eat no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. Reducing daily intake to 1,500 mg is desirable because it can lower blood pressure even further. If you can’t meet these goals right now, even reducing sodium intake by 1,000 mg per day can benefit blood pressure.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That means no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman and no more than two drinks per day if you’re a man.

Follow the American Heart Association recommendations when you eat out and keep an eye on your portion sizes. Eating smaller portions is a great way to reduce your calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium. Remember: a portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time, whether you are eating in a restaurant or at home.


Constance Brown-RiggsConstance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, national speaker and author of The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes.. She is a Dannon One Yogurt Every Day Nutrition Advisor.