A heart-shaped plate on a tablecloth with silverware set on either side.

Simple Nutrition Steps to Boost Heart Health

Last updated: September 2022

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? Yet, about 80 percent of cardiovascular disease cases are preventable, including conditions such as heart disease and stroke.1,2

Lifestyle habits such as smoking, activity level, nutrition, and other factors may influence one's risk of developing a cardiovascular-related illness. So, give your heart a helping hand by keeping these nutrients in mind.3

Why is heart health important for people with diabetes?

By 2035, it is estimated that approximately 45 percent of the United States population will have cardiovascular disease. However, people with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease than those without diabetes. Over time, chronically high blood sugars may damage blood vessels and nerves – including those surrounding the heart.2

While it may feel overwhelming to hear about these risks, adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle through nutrition can reduce one's risk of disease. And remember, you don't have to do it alone! Everyone deserves support. Engage in our diabetes community, join a support group, attend an exercise class, or work with a registered dietitian who supports your health goals.

What nutrients promote improved heart health?

Certain powerhouse nutrients can promote better heart health. Following a plant-forward diet may reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality from heart-related disease.4

But you don't need to become vegetarian or vegan to reap the benefits of plant-based nutrition. Instead, make small steps toward prioritizing plant-based foods while incorporating lean protein sources. When constructing your meals, keep the following heart-healthy nutrients in mind.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids can pump up your heart health in more ways than one! It acts like a vasodilator, which may help improve your blood pressure. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties and may help improve blood lipid profile.4

Food high in omega-3s includes salmon, tuna, hemp seeds, walnuts, fortified foods, and more.5

Potassium

Research shows that higher intakes of potassium may decrease one's risk of cardiovascular disease by approximately 20 percent. Potassium contains antihypertensive properties and helps regulate extracellular fluid volume.6

Boost your potassium intake by enjoying dried apricots, lentils (including lentil pasta), prunes, potatoes, kidney beans, and more.

Fiber

Not only does fiber help regulate blood glucose values, but it may also improve heart health. Specifically, soluble fiber may help lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation. For a soluble fiber-filled boost, incorporate legumes, oat bran, flaxseed, and barley.7

Lycopene

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that gives plant-based foods a bright red color. Lycopene improves vascular health by helping to prevent atherosclerosis, platelet formation, inflammation, and arterial stiffness. Add tomatoes, watermelon, red grapefruits, papaya, and other colorful foods into your daily meals to boost lycopene in your diet.8

Be mindful of these nutrients

While certain nutrients may benefit your heart, being mindful of others may equally help promote better cardiovascular function. Although these nutrients don't have to be completely eliminated, they should be consumed in moderation. Check out why cutting back can help improve your heart health.

Sodium

Sodium may be the main culprit behind high blood pressure levels. While the recommendation is to limit sodium to 2,300mg daily, those looking to improve heart health may benefit from daily consumption of 1,500mg sodium.9

Food high in sodium includes pre-made pasta sauces, deli meats, convenience meals, and canned goods.

Saturated fat

Saturated fats are typically found in animal-based products and may increase cholesterol values when consumed excessively. The American Heart Association recommends limiting red meat, butter, full-fat cheese, and tropical oils to help decrease disease risk. Instead, try using plant-based alternatives or lean protein options.10

Refined grains

Lend your heart a helping hand by swapping in whole grains when possible. Research has found that people who consumed more than 7 servings of refined grains per day had a 33 percent greater risk of heart disease and 47 percent increased risk of stroke.11

When choosing or making your meals, aim for at least half of the grains on your plate to be whole grains.

Nutrition is powerful for heart health

With proper assistance and knowledge, you can start incorporating more heart-boosting nutrients into your eating plan to support your cardiovascular health.

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