Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE is on a mission to help people with diabetes Eat Well Your Way For Life, and thrive with diabetes. She received her BS in Nutritional Science and Coordinated Dietetics and became a registered dietician nutritionist in 1997, and has been a certified diabetes educator since 2008. She is an active member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), the California Dietetic Association (CDA), and is currently a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Learn more about her at vandanasheth.com.
According to the American Heart Association, diabetes is one of the seven major controllable risk factors for heart disease. As a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator, heart health is an important topic of discussion with all my clients. A heart-healthy diet with consistent carbohydrate intake is ideal for anyone who has diabetes and is at risk for heart disease. Regardless of whether you have diabetes, heart disease, or both, following a heart-healthy diet is a good idea.
Eight simple strategies for a heart-healthy lifestyle
1. Enjoy adequate fiber - Did you know that the average American may get approximately 14 grams of fiber per day? Fiber is helpful in multiple ways. Fiber helps keep us feeling full longer, slows down the blood sugar response, and binds with “bad” cholesterol to flush it out. Good sources of fiber include berries, beans, lentils, barley, oats, bran, quinoa, vegetables, nuts, and seeds such as chia, flax and hemp. Aim for at least 25g fiber per day. Need help getting to your goal? Try adding some of these high-fiber foods to easily meet your fiber needs for the day: one cup of raspberries has 8g fiber; one cup of cooked black beans has 15g; and one tablespoon of chia seeds has 5.5g! It is also important to drink adequate water when you have fiber to help keep things move easily through your body.
2. Ensure a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids and there are three types. They help reduce inflammation, prevent heart disease and decrease insulin resistance. Fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring and salmon are the richest sources of omega 3 fats. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, tofu and walnuts are good sources of plant based omega 3 fats.
3. Flavor your foods with spices and herbs while cutting back on salt. The recommendation is to limit your sodium to 2400 milligrams per day. Did you know that just one teaspoon of salt has 2325 milligrams of sodium? Pay attention to nutrition facts labels and find your favorite foods that are lower in sodium.
4. Be mindful of your portions - use the plate method. Fill one half of your plate with colorful vegetables, one fourth with lean protein and one fourth with a high-fiber carb choice. This will ensure meeting your nutritional needs without spiking your blood sugar.
5. Watch your alcohol intake. If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit it to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. It is important to accurately identify what counts as one serving: 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, OR 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits.
6. Practice some type of mindfulness activity to help you better cope with stress. Stress negatively affects both your blood sugar as well as heart health. Incorporate a consistent activity such as meditation, journaling, breathing exercises, listening to music to help you unwind and relax.
7. Stay active. Aim for at least 150 minutes of activity per week. This breaks down to about 30 minutes, five times per week. You also don’t have to do it all at once. In fact, you may benefit more by breaking up your activity to 15-20 minutes after your two big meals.
8. Quit smoking, as it puts you at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. If you currently smoke, get help and support to stop smoking.
Incorporate these simple strategies to enjoy a heart-healthy and diabetes-friendly lifestyle!