Heart-Healthy Foods to Add to Your Nutrition Plan
February was American Heart Month, which was dedicated to the importance of caring for your heart health and lowering the risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, people with diabetes are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, which makes choosing foods that help benefit your heart important.
Specific nutrients to add to support heart health
With all chronic conditions, making healthy lifestyle choices can effectively lower cholesterol and blood pressure to reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic health conditions. Rather than thinking about all the foods we are usually told to avoid, let's reframe how we approach nutrition and focus on what we can add to our meals to help boost heart health.
Oatmeal is an excellent choice for your heart and overall health! Not only is oatmeal a quick, easy, and affordable option for breakfast, but it has been found to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.1
Tips to make oatmeal heart-healthy
Oatmeal's high fiber content can help keep blood sugars stable if appropriate portions are consumed. To reap the benefits of oatmeal, avoid using pre-packaged flavored instant oatmeal that contains added sugar. You can:1
- Add some chopped nuts, a spoonful of natural nut butter, or a sprinkle of cinnamon
- Add ground flaxseed or chia seeds for some additional fiber and healthy fats
- Try an overnight oats recipe
Seeds such as ground flaxseed and chia seeds can provide similar benefits and value to your eating plan with just a small amount. They are both excellent soluble fiber sources and contain omega-3s, which can help fight inflammation.2
Try adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed or chia seeds into yogurt, a smoothie, a bowl of cottage cheese, or to oatmeal.
The good ole saying, "beans, beans, they're good for your heart," still holds true! Beans are packed with fiber and protein, and studies have also found that having one cup of a variety of different types of beans per day can lower both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol.3
There are so many ways to add beans to recipes:
- Roast chickpeas as a crunchy snack or salad topping
- Add beans to soups, salads, and chili
- Avoid baked beans (the main ingredient is sugar)
- Avoid baked beans since the top ingredient is sugar
All vegetables are certainly an important part of a balanced heart-healthy diet and are a great option to incorporate daily. Since most vegetables are low in both calories and carbohydrates, they will likely not cause your blood sugar to spike.4
Incorporating non-starchy green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and arugula provide additional benefits for your heart and contain fiber. They are loaded with vitamins and nutrients that can fight heart disease and lower blood pressure.4
If you have heard of the Mediterranean diet, then you may be familiar with the benefits that come along with consuming foods that are abundant in heart-healthy fats and omega-3s. Fish such as salmon and tuna are excellent sources of healthy fats.5
Nuts are usually the first snack I suggest to people with diabetes. They are low in carbohydrates and offer a great balance of fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Small amounts can fill you up without causing blood sugars to spike. Avoid salted nuts as they contain loads of sodium. For a sweet twist on nuts, try cinnamon or cocoa-coated almonds.5
Easy additions to support heart health
There are so many foods available to support a healthy heart. Remember to focus on what you can add to your daily eating plan. Even a small change can make a difference!
How do you support heart health? Let us know in the comments!
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