Heart-Healthy Meal Plan for Diabetics

Heart-Healthy Meal Plan for Diabetics

When you're diabetic, understanding how fluctuating blood glucose levels affect your heart, nerves, and kidneys is critical. Short-term, most diabetics are concerned with hyper- or hypoglycemia (high and low blood sugar). However, focusing on heart health is also essential.

According to the American Heart Association, approximately 68% of diabetics over the age of 65 die from a fatal form of heart disease, and another 16% die from stroke. Take a proactive approach to your health today by improving or changing your diet.

Diabetes and heart health — what's the connection?

It isn't a coincidence that diabetics are two to four times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than non-diabetics. When blood glucose levels aren't effectively controlled, your blood vessels, arteries, and heart pay the price. The good news is that, when you manage your blood glucose, you can significantly reduce your risk of a stroke or heart attack.

Support your health with a heart-healthy meal plan

In an ideal world, processed food wouldn't be so readily available, since it contributes to obesity and, in turn, diabetes and heart disease. We all know that fresh, whole foods support a healthy heart, but what should diabetics focus on?

  • Consume plenty of plant-based foods. Numerous studies, involving hundreds of thousands of participants, have confirmed the beneficial effects of a plant-based diet on both diabetes prevention and treatment. In fact, within one 2006 study, diabetics who consumed a low-fat vegan diet reduced their HbA1C (average blood sugar) levels by 1.23 points, in comparison to just 0.38 for those who followed the American Diabetes Association Diet.
  • Reduce your intake of sodium. Eliminate processed foods, including canned soups, cold cuts, bread or rolls, processed snack foods, and frozen dinners. When cooking with fresh ingredients, season with spices, herbs, or citrus juice instead of salt. And make your own salad dressing; a little olive oil, apple cider vinegar, fresh garlic, herbs, and spices go a long way.

  • Focus on balance. Ensure that you consume enough fiber, healthy fat, and protein, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Consume a wide range of low-glycemic fruits and vegetables. The more "colorful" your diet, the better.
  • Low- and zero-fat processed foods aren't always better. Be aware of sugar and calorie content when purchasing "zero-fat" foods, such as yogurt. These products can be deceiving, as the fat content is often replaced with an increased sugar and carbohydrate content.

A sample meal plan to get you started

Making small changes each day supports long-term, sustainable habits in the future. This type of diet consumed on a regular basis will also help you manage your weight, further supporting your heart health.

  • Breakfast: Organic Greek yogurt with steel-cut oats, flaxseeds, cinnamon, and fresh berries, or two scrambled eggs with whole grain toast and fresh salsa.
  • Lunch: Whole grain pita with tuna, cucumbers, red onion, and leafy greens, or a spinach salad with fresh goat cheese, raw nuts, strawberries, and grilled chicken.
  • Dinner: Chickpea or lentil curry, or vegetable stir-fry with brown rice.
  • Snacks: Hummus and raw vegetables, hard-boiled egg, mixed nuts, peanut butter on whole grain crackers, or a smoothie (75% vegetables and 25% fruit).
  • Beverages: Plenty of water, herbal teas, black coffee, and unsweetened almond milk. Avoid both diet and non-diet soda.

Sources:

American Heart Association

World Heart Federation

PubMed: Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets