American Heart Month: Heart Healthy Foods

February 20, 2014 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Heart II

According to the American Heart Association, when left untreated, diabetes can lead to major complications including an increased risk of heart disease. Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease 2-4 times compared to those without diabetes. Did you know that you can help prevent these complications by working with your diabetes educator to create a personalized plan of action? Your diabetes educator is your guide to heart healthy food choices. Choosing a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference.

Take a second and think of ways that you can love your heart. Did any of your ideas include eating a healthy diet? Eating a healthy diet includes limiting saturated and trans fats while increasing heart healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (MUFAs and PUFAs). Substituting saturated and trans fats for heart healthy fats, typically plant based, can improve heart health.

Saturated fats are usually found in animal products such as:

  • Milk
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Butter

Saturated fats and trans fats are less healthy types of fats that can increase your risk for high cholesterol and heart disease. However, in moderation, these foods can be included as part of a balanced diet.

Lowering your LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein), “bad cholesterol”, can help reduce risk of heart disease. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that your body needs but can cause plaque buildup causing arteries to be narrow and blocked. Baked goods and desserts may have “hidden saturated fats” because they sometimes use ingredients like hydrogenated oils, coconut oil, and shortening.

Focus on eating more MUFAs and PUFAs instead of saturated fat as they can help improve cholesterol which can decrease your risk of heart disease.

Foods containing MUFAs and PUFAS include:

  • Nuts: cashews, macadamia, pecans, almonds, walnuts, and pistachios
  • Seeds: sesame, chia, flax, and sunflower
  • Oils: olive, sesame, canola, soybean, safflower, and corn
  • Avocado
  • Peanut butter
  • Fatty cold water fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, herring, and trout)

Incorporate these heart healthy fats with other plant based foods like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains as part of a heart healthy diet. Continue to follow-up with your medical doctor and diabetes educator for continued guidance and support in your efforts to control your diabetes and live a heart healthy lifestyle.

For heart healthy recipes visit the Nutrition Center at These recipes feature the amount and types of fat including the amount of carbohydrate per serving in grams.


Entry filed under: Diabetes, Health, Healthy Lifestyle. Tags: , , , , .

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