Healthier Fats - Heart Health and Diabetes

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes stoke and diseases of the blood system and heart. It is the leading cause of death among people with diabetes, so maintaining a healthy heart is critical. To minimize the risk of developing CVD, the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) advises individuals to keep to their diabetes meal plan and follow the recommendations in Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide. This means eating a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains, and low in saturated and trans fats. Foods that contain saturated and trans fats include animal products, tropical oils such as coconut, palm and palm kernel, commercially baked cakes, pastries and doughnuts, hard margarines and fried foods. Check the nutrition facts panel on breaded frozen foods and frozen desserts, as these often contain saturated and trans fats too.

In spite of its bad reputation, fat is an essential nutrient. It is used by the body as a major source of energy, it helps to maintain cell structure, and it helps the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. Unfortunately, most of us get too much saturated and trans fats, and not enough of the healthier, unsaturated fats. Recent research indicates that a diet with unsaturated fats including omega-3 fatty acids lowers bad LDL cholesterol and raises good HDL cholesterol. This can protect against the development of CVD. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish e.g. salmon, sardines and trout, flax seeds and oil, and products like omega eggs and milk. Other unsaturated fat sources include oils like canola, walnut, and olive, as well as avocados, nuts and seeds. To help your heart, cook with these healthier oil options and look for salad dressings that have heart friendly ingredients.

The CDA recommends that people with diabetes and prediabetes consume less then 35% of their total calories from fat. For a person eating 2000 calories a day, this would mean no more then 700 calories should be from fat. By making healthier lifestyle choices, people with diabetes can expect to increase their chances of living a long and active life.