One of the single most important things you can do to improve your health is something parents all over the world are constantly telling their kids — eat your fruits and veggies. What’s good for kids is also good for adults, including those living with diabetes. Healthy eating is crucial to diabetes prevention and management.
But something that’s equally important is making sure your eating plan includes heart-healthy foods. People with diabetes are at an increased risk for heart disease and the Standard American Diet (SAD), which is high in processed foods and unhealthy fats, isn’t doing them any favors. Reducing the amount of fast food and junk foods we eat goes a long way in getting us on a road to better health.
Here are 5 tips for heart-healthy eating that will help lead you to a stronger heart.
Ditch fried foods
Chicken, okra, potatoes, pickles — you name it, you can probably fry it. Everyone knows eating a lot of fried foods is bad for you, but it remains a staple on many people’s plates. Eating fried foods is linked to high blood pressure, increased LDL (bad) cholesterol and other risk factors of heart disease.
Salt is another staple in many people’s homes. It may make some foods taste better, but it can also raise your blood pressure, increasing your risk for heart disease. The federal recommendation for salt intake is 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, but for people with diabetes, the recommendation is 1,500 milligrams a day. Check the spice aisle at the grocery store for salt-free options to enhance food’s flavor. Also be sure to watch out for hidden salt in foods that you might not suspect like bread, frozen chicken breast and salad dressings.
If you look at the nutrition labels on many items in your pantry and refrigerator, you may be surprised to see how many have added sugar. For better heart health, cut down on sugar-sweetened beverages, foods with added sugars and alcoholic drinks.
Choose lean meats
Saturated fat is a big no-no when it comes to heart health, so limit the amount of red meat you eat. Beef, lamb and pork are high in saturated fat and linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Switch to lean proteins like beans, fish, skinless chicken, tofu and turkey.
Switch to whole grains
If processed carbs like white bread, white potatoes and white rice are a regular part of your eating plan, consider switching to fiber-rich foods like whole grain bread, sweet potatoes and brown rice. You can also try some of the lesser-known whole grains like bulgur, kamut, quinoa and millet.
For more tips on how to keep your heart healthy and strong, sign up for Get Healthy, Live Well’s new Diabetes Prevention Program maintenance program classes. The class titled “Healthy Hearts and Diabetes Prevention” is part of Tanner’s Advancing Your Health Education Series. Guided by a trained lifestyle coach, you will learn how to prevent or manage heart disease.
The class will be offered Feb. 14 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton in Classroom 1 and at Tanner Medical Center/Villa Rica in Classroom B. Another class will be offered Feb. 15 from 10 to 11 a.m. at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton in Classroom 1.
To sign up for a class, register online at GetHealthyLiveWell.org or call 770.214.CARE.
About the Author
Patricia Mitchell is a wellness and prevention coordinator at Tanner Health System. An Alabama native, she earned a bachelor’s in exercise science from the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University. She has spent 20 years in the field. At Tanner, she teaches wellness programs, including the Diabetes Prevention Program, Living Well Workshop, Peer Weight Loss Program and Kids N Fitness. She also coordinates Get Healthy, Live Well’s interactive Kids Exhibit, an initiative under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH) grant.