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Heart Healthy Eating

 Blueberry heart

February is American Heart Month to raise awareness and prevent heart disease! Per the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Individuals with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing heart disease. 


Incorporating complex carbohydrates, like fiber sources such as whole grains, vegetables, and beans, and healthy fats into your diet is important for blood sugar control and heart health. When it comes to cholesterol, the main thing to focus on from a dietary standpoint is your fat intake. If you’ve picked up a label lately, you may have been overwhelmed with all the fats listed. Have no fear, I’m here to help differentiate the different types of fat! Let’s have a little “fat chat” below: 

  • Trans fats: Trans fats have been found to negatively affect cholesterol. Trans fats are found in donuts, cakes, cookies, pies, biscuits, and other fried foods. There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL, think “L for lousy”) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL, “think H for healthy or happy”). Trans fat lowers your HDL (good cholesterol) and increases your LDL (bad cholesterol)- yikes, a double whammy! When reading a food label, look to ensure that there is 0g of trans fat, but also check the ingredients list and avoid products with “partially hydrogenated oils.” Food companies can sneak these trans fats in if they are less than 0.5g/serving, so reading the ingredients is super important.
  • Saturated fats: Saturated fats also have a negative impact on your total cholesterol. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products such as cheese, meat, milk, butter, and ice-cream, however coconut oil and palm oil also contain high amounts of saturated fats. In order to limit the intake of saturated fats, choose leaner meats such as chicken, turkey, and lean beef and opt for reduced-fat cheeses, milks, and ice-cream. 
  • Healthy fats: Omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats are known as healthy fats that can help reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods such as salmon, walnuts, tofu, flaxseed and canola oil. Avocados, nuts, seeds and peanut butter are good sources of unsaturated fats. 


Limiting sodium (salt) is also vital (pun intended) to heart health! Here are some tip and tricks to help monitor your sodium intake:

  • Shop the perimeter of your grocery store -- look for fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and low fat dairy. 
  • Do you have trouble eating all of your fresh fruits and vegetables before they go bad? No worries! Your freezer aisle has tons of frozen fruits and vegetables that are just as nutrient-packed as the fresh ones. However, avoid the ones smothered in sauces, cheeses, butters and sugar. 
  • When purchasing packaged or canned foods, look for words like “reduced sodium,” “no salt added,” or “salt free.”
  • When looking at the food label, any snack under 140mg is considered low-sodium. Be sure to check the serving size and avoid snacks with greater than 300mg of sodium. 
  • Season your foods with fresh or dried herbs and spices. Steer clear of high salt seasonings such as garlic salt, lemon pepper and Creole seasoning. Check out products by Mrs. Dash to find salt-free versions of your favorite seasonings. 


      It is not always easy to make the right food choices, but with the help of a dietitian, you can discover that eating “heart healthy” while also managing your diabetes can be doable and delicious. Whether you are living with diabetes, heart disease, or both, seek out the help of a registered dietitian to provide you with an individualized nutrition plan. Our Pendulum dietitians are here to provide you with additional support on how to make healthier choices that will work for YOU. As always, speak with your healthcare provider to see if these recommendations are right for you.


      Here is a yummy recipe to a heart healthy, high-fiber breakfast smoothie:


      Pear-berry Smoothie: 
      ½ cup frozen + peeled avocado
      1 pear
      1 cup fresh spinach
      ½ cup almond milk
      ¼ cup blueberries
      1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
      ½ cup nonfat greek yogurt

      Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend and enjoy!


      Written by: Jennifer McManus, RD LDN