Heart-Healthy Foods to Add to Your Diabetes Diet

Diabetes and heart disease often go together. But with the right heart-healthy foods, you can help keep both conditions under control.  

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First, the not-so-good news: If you have diabetes, you have a higher chance of having heart disease, too. In fact, you’re twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as someone without diabetes.1 That’s because over time, high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and nerves that control your heart.   

Now for the good news. When you manage your diabetes, you also cut your risk of heart disease, says Amy Beney, R.D. Beney is a certified diabetes care and education specialist in Lockport, New York, and founder of Nutrition Insights. That’s why sticking to your treatment plan is key.    

What else is important? Eating the right foods. But you don’t have to overhaul your diet. Even little changes can help manage your diabetes and keep your heart healthy. Here are 7 heart-healthy foods to add to your diabetes diet.   

Colorful fruits and veggies    

You probably know you should have at least 4 to 5 servings of fruit and veggies each day. But did you know they should be a mix of different colors? That helps you get all the nutrients you need for heart health, says Beney.  

Go with the 5 main color groups: 

  1. Red and pink. Try: beets, cherries, cranberries, pink grapefruit.   
  1. Blue and purple. Try: blackberries, blueberries, eggplant, grapes.   
  1. Yellow and orange: Try: acorn squash, butternut squash, apricots, cantaloupes, carrots.    
  1. Green. Try: avocado, broccoli, green beans, kale.   
  1. White and brown. Try: bananas, cauliflower, onions, potatoes.   

Fatty fish   

Fatty fish are high in healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids. Eating more omega-3s can help lower your heart disease risk if you have type 2 diabetes. Some fatty fish to try:    

  • Salmon.  
  • Mackerel.  
  • Sardines.   

Aim for 2 servings per week. Not a fish fan? There are other sources of omega-3s. Try: 

  • Flaxseeds.   
  • Chia seeds.   
  • Walnuts.   

   

Unfried foods    

Frying foods adds unhealthy fats and extra calories. Instead of deep-frying, try healthier cooking methods. Omaira Ferreira, a board-certified functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner, suggests:  

  

  • Baking.   
  • Grilling.   
  • Steaming.   
  • Stir-frying.   
  • Air-frying. 
        

Homemade dishes    

“Preparing meals at home allows you to have more control over the ingredients and portion sizes,” says Ferreira. “This way, you can avoid hidden sugars, unhealthy fats, and excessive sodium.” Need some ideas? The American Heart Association has plenty of recipes to try. They are heart-healthy and diabetes-friendly. Plus, they’re tasty and easy on your wallet.   
    

Smart spices    

Salt is not one of them. Eating a lot of salt has been linked to type 2 diabetes. It also raises your risk of high blood pressure and other heart problems, notes Ferreira. Cutting back on salt doesn’t mean you have to give up flavor though. Season your food with herbs, spices, and other flavorings instead. Some examples: Dill, onion, garlic, oregano, basil, and cumin. 

   

Lean proteins   

Avoid processed meats and fatty cuts of meat. They’re high in unhealthy fats. Instead, focus on lean protein sources. Smart picks include:  

  • Skinless poultry.  
  • Fish.  
  • Legumes such as chickpeas, peanuts, black beans, and green peas.  
  • Organic tempeh. It’s made from fermented soybeans.  
  • Low-sodium turkey or roast beef slices.   

Water  

All right, so water is not a food. But if you don’t drink enough liquids, it can impact your blood sugar levels. “Our body needs a certain amount of fluid to function properly,” says Beney. What you drink also matters. Sugary drinks, such as sodas and fruit juices, pack in added sugar and calories. Water is free of both.  

Bored by water? Try adding some fresh lemon or lime juice. You can also toss in a few cucumber slices or fresh basil leaves. 


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