Type 2 Diabetes-Friendly Foods That May Lower Heart Disease Risk

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Type 2 diabetes and heart disease are closely linked, so it’s key for diabetics to do what they can to lower their risk of heart disease. That might mean making several lifestyle changes, including exercising more and eating healthier.

Planning a delicious meal that’s diabetes-friendly and heart-healthy can feel like you’re searching for the Holy Grail: an ambitious, but ultimately, impossible goal. But you have many more options than you might think. You may have to be a little more deliberate about your food choices, but with some experience, you’ll get the hang of it.

Foods to Choose

It’s actually not as difficult as one might think to eat a diet rich in diabetes-friendly foods that are also good for your heart. You’re basically trying to steer clear of some types of foods while loading up on the good stuff. Try not to approach eating with the grim mindset of “I can’t have that.” Think inclusion. You want to embrace and enjoy the foods that are good for your body—foods that can help you be healthier and lower your risk of heart disease.

Fill your pantry and your plate with these foods:

  • Non-starchy vegetables: Fortunately for foodies, this category encompasses a lot of great options. Greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and jicama are good options when you want to get the most bang for your nutritional buck.

  • Legumes: Legumes like beans and lentils are high in fiber, which is good news for your blood sugar levels and your heart. Lentils, which come in a variety of colors, are very versatile and can easily be incorporated into your favorite kind of cuisine.

  • Fruits: Healthy carbohydrates in moderation can certainly be part of a diabetes-friendly diet. People with type 2 diabetes are usually better off opting for fresh fruit over canned or dried fruit. Peaches, apples, cherries, blueberries, and grapes are all good options.

  • Whole grains: Whole grain breads and pastas should be your go-to choices, rather than white breads, rices, and noodles. Or consider couscous, farro or quinoa. Just be sure to read the labels before you buy so you make sure you’re really getting a whole grain product.

  • Monounsaturated fats: Avocados and nuts like pecans, walnuts, and almonds are your friends if you’re trying to keep your heart healthy and your blood sugar stable.

  • Fish: Fish containing omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart. Some tasty options include salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines.

  • Eggs: A growing body of research suggests that eating eggs in moderation may help improve your blood glucose levels while boosting your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as the “good” cholesterol.

  • This seed is also high in omega-3 fatty acid. Sprinkle a tablespoon of ground flaxseed on top of a bowl of cereal or mix into a container of low-fat yogurt for a nutritional boost.

Mix and match, and you’ll be sure to come up with a great selection of meals that work for you, not against you.

Foods to Avoid

That being said, some foods are best left on the grocery store shelf or in the refrigerated case. They’re either not heart-friendly, not diabetes-friendly, or both.

What to avoid or eat sparingly:

  • Processed meats: Processed meats like bacon, salami, and pastrami tend to be high in sodium, which can contribute to a rise in blood pressure—and possibly an increased risk of heart disease. If you can’t resist, try to make it a very occasional treat.

  • Anything with saturated fat: Meats, full-fat dairy, foods with palm oil, and other foods containing saturated fat tend to boost your levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), often considered the “bad” cholesterol. Read labels so you won’t make a mistake that’s harder to resist when it’s in your house.

  • High fructose corn syrup: This super-sweet sweetener lurks in all sorts of foods that you might not expect (ketchup, anyone?), so it can be easy to ingest without even realizing it. In general, you want to watch out for foods that are high in any added sugars, including high fructose corn syrup.

Figuring Out What’s Best for You

As you search for the right mix of delicious foods that appeal to your palate and your body’s nutritional needs, you may come across other foods that you can incorporate, too. Talk to your doctor if you’re uncertain about a food and whether it will fit into your eating plan.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Feb 3
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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