A meal plan for diabetes and high cholesterol can help you to keep your blood sugar under control, lose weight easily and improve your health. When you are on a diet you need to be careful about all the food you eat, even the meals. A balanced diet is the key to staying healthy. Bad and unhealthy foods are the enemy of a diabetic.
Here’s Exactly What I Ate To Cure My Type 2 Diabetes & High Cholesterol
Mary Jenkins is 51 and lives in Kanab, Utah. Last December, before starting her new diet, she weighed 225 pounds. She has since lost 50 pounds—and the weight is still coming off. This is her story.
I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, so I lived off a Southern-fried diet for most of my life. As a result, I had extremely high blood pressure for over 30 years. I tried every eating plan out there to get it under control: low-carb diets, high-protein diets—all that stuff. None of it worked for me. I was still obese, and my cholesterol levels didn’t improve.
Then two years ago, my doctor ordered an A1C test. He had a hunch I may have type 2 diabetes as a result of my weight. My score was a seven, which meant his suspicions were correct. (A normal A1C level is below 5.7. ) It got worse: Because I’ve had high blood pressure for so long, he said I could have long-term organ damage now that I also had diabetes. You’d think at that point, he would have sat me down and talked to me about how I could improve my diet, but he didn’t. He just said something like, “Watch your carbs and exercise.” That was it. So I basically kept living as I had before.
Then my doctor moved away, and I found another doctor in a larger town nearby. My new physician told me that I needed to go on metformin (the generic name for a drug used to treat high blood sugar levels) immediately. He also told me that I should ramp up my exercise routine. So last year, I started hiking and rock climbing with my neighbor, who happens to be a yoga instructor. I’m just a regular gal who sits at a desk all day, so this was not serious rock climbing or anything. But still, with the help of my new workout buddy, I lost 10 pounds. It felt great to be making progress, and my neighbor even started calling me “the amazing disappearing woman.” I have to admit it was a big ego boost.
I thought my doctor would praise my progress, too, but at my next appointment, which was this past December, he told me that my blood pressure was still too high. He said, “If you don’t make drastic diet changes, I’m going to send you to a nephrologist because your kidney function is very poor.”
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That terrified me. I lost my pastor to kidney disease, and I knew it was a terrible affliction. So I Googled ‘What do you eat to improve kidney function?’. I found information on the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which is the diet recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for lowering blood pressure. In 30 years, no one had talked to me about a dietary approach to lowering my blood pressure. I started reading about it, and I thought, if it didn’t work, no harm no foul. I decided to start my new diet on January first, because everyone else starts their goals then, right?
My diet & exercise routine
The DASH diet is all about portion control and eating less fat, sugar, and salt. I bought smaller plates, spoons, and cups to make sticking to the plan easier. I also got smaller storage containers marked with various serving sizes so I could eat out of them and keep my portions in check. (Buy something similar on Amazon.com for $10.) I also posted to Facebook to let my friends know what I was doing and started keeping a food diary. These things helped keep me accountable—and continue to do so to this day.
On the DASH website, I also found and printed out this shopping list that provides a list of foods that fit into the diet. I took it with me to the grocery store and stocked up on everything I needed—which took me three long hours. (Thinking back on that now, it’s actually a bit humorous. Shopping is far easier for me now that I’ve been eating this way for nearly a year.) I bought lots of healthy grains, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat yogurt. I cut out cow’s milk and started using almond milk instead. I switched from processed peanut butter to natural almond butter.
I also started preparing most of my food myself, which is something I hadn’t done before. I’d always eaten out or bought ready-to-eat stuff. I found new things that I liked, and many were things I’d never eaten before. For example, I’d never had steel-cut oatmeal. As a Southern gal, I’d only had grits. I started eating strawberries and raspberries. I had never had asparagus or Brussels sprouts, but I started adding them to my shopping cart. I also began buying fresh meat and making grilled chicken or pork with cauliflower rice. (Which, by the way, is so good!)
I also started walking. Every two hours, I would walk for 10 or 20 minutes or even an hour. It didn’t really matter how long, it was just to get up out of my chair and move. I’d already proven I could hike and do more challenging forms of exercise, so walking seemed like a smaller task that would help me get healthier.
Come March 1st I had my next doctor’s appointment, and I was excited to see the changes. I don’t have a scale at home; I refuse to buy one. So it had been three months since I’d seen the doctor, and two months since I’d started the diet, and he said I’d lost 33 pounds. He was in shock. And not only that, he told me that if I stuck with it, I could reverse my diabetes. I was determined to make it happen.
Two months later I had another appointment. I found out that I had lost an additional 20 pounds. He also shared the most amazing news with me: I didn’t have diabetes anymore! My A1C was 5.3, down from 7. My blood pressure was also down to 115 over 30—healthy numbers I haven’t seen since I was 21 years old. I felt ecstatic, but also relieved.
Even though my health has improved, I haven’t stopped my medications; that’s not what my journey is about. With my long-term blood pressure issues, there’s no way to tell what harm’s already been done, so I need to continue taking them.
My doctor is shocked I’ve maintained my good health and weight loss for so long. He told me he doesn’t care if lose another pound; he just doesn’t want me to put weight back on. “You have made too much progress to go back,” he said. And I agree. I want to do everything I can to maintain my newfound health for the rest of my life.
How you can improve your diet, too
People will say, “I don’t have money to start one of these diets.” But don’t let that excuse hold you back. I shop for food at Walmart, and I promise that you don’t have to spend a lot on groceries. Just follow a healthy shopping list and find ways to keep your portions reasonable. One way I do this is by asking the butcher to cut things into really small portions. This way I don’t have to spend time measuring as many things at home, and I can cook only what I should be eating in one sitting. You just have to figure out what strategies work for you, and not let anything stand in your way.
4 Tips for Eating Well with High Cholesterol
Diabetes, High Cholesterol, and Diet
Here’s some good news: it doesn’t take a huge effort to start making heart-healthy food decisions. Especially when you have diabetes and high cholesterol, watching your diet is critical.
There are changes you can make to what you eat every day. We recommend that you talk to a certified diabetes educator or registered dietitian about changing how you eat. They can work with you to create a meal plan that is delicious, flexible (you won’t always be eating the same thing), and healthy—for both your heart and your diabetes.
Consider the fruit and/or vegetables that you will add to your meal for the most heart healthy, weight neutral, blood sugar favorable eating plan.
In the meantime, here are 4 tips to help you eat well when you have high cholesterol.
1. Trade Processed (Refined) Grains for Whole Grains
Since the body treats white rice, and baked goods, bread, and pasta made with white flour just as it does sugar, these foods are best replaced with a similar whole grain option. What’s missing from white rice and white flour is the dietary fiber, which helps to slow down food digestion and thus, keeps your blood sugar from rising quickly. Foods with dietary fiber have the added benefit of helping you to feel longer.
There’s another compelling reason to avoid processed grains: they may be the reason for your high blood cholesterol, specifically high triglycerides. By cutting out processed, refined grains, including chips, crackers, and sugar cereals.
These days, there are many versions of pasta and bread made with fiber-rich whole wheat flour and other whole grains such as spelt, barley, and oats. Better yet, there are now pastas made with chickpea flour, black bean flour, or lentil flour. All of these pasta products have the same texture and taste as you might expect from the common white pasta, but they are a great source of plant protein as well as fiber making them an easy and acceptable alternative for anyone looking to either avoid wheat and/or choose diabetes-friendlier foods.
The next time you’re shopping, try any pasta in place of the regular white pasta. Oats can be made into flour and offers a more heart-healthy option for baking; try making an oat flour Belgian waffle. Another option is almond flour, which is great as a base for preparing baked goods that deliver on protein and dietary fiber minus the sugar surge. You won’t ever look back!
Also, try replacing white rice with black, wild, brown, or mixed grain rice. Another favorite, if you haven’t tried it yet is quinoa—a high protein grain—which cooks in five minutes, as well as whole grain couscous, which are great substitutes for white rice.
2. Add More Fruits and Vegetables—Incorporate into Every Meal
We know you’ve heard it before but bears repeating: you can probably benefit from increasing the amount of fruit and vegetable servings you eat daily. All the dietary fiber in fruits and vegetables can help lower your blood cholesterol, increase your sense of fullness, and reduces the risks for many types of cancer, too. So try to build your meals around the fruits and vegetables, aiming for at least five but really 9 servings are needed—yes NINE—servings daily,¹ according to the United States Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
So you realize that you are not getting nearly enough fruits or vegetables, and want to boost your intake. To begin, always plan your meal by starting with the fruit or vegetable(s) and build from there. Do you feel like having cranberries? Then maybe goal with oatmeal. If you want eggs for breakfast, pull out the vegetables you have in the fridge, chop them up and make a frittata or prepare your eggs your way and have some stir-fried or roasted veggies on the side.
Here are some other ways to boost your produce intake:
- Try a serving of plain Greek yogurt to gently warmed, frozen berries or your favorite seasonal fruit then top with chopped walnuts for breakfast.
- Add some arugula and pear to your egg for a flavorful, filling, and appealing omelet.
- Snack on raw vegetables throughout the day or dip them in hummus to make a quick meal or satisfying snack.
- Always have a piece of fruit on hand to help you get through the inevitable afternoon low.
- Make a pot of chili with lots of veggies (zucchini, carrots, and red peppers work well, but throw in whatever you have on hand or like more).
- Always plan your meal around a salad or cooked vegetable so the servings can add up to your daily goal. During the warmer months, enjoy making a trip to your local farmers’ market to buy seasonal produce.
3. Preparation Methods Matter So Cook with Olive Oil or Avocado Oil
Instead of cooking with those generic vegetable oils (corn, canola), switch to using olive oil, sunflower oil, and avocado oil, which contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. When choosing added facts in your cooking, the goal is to avoid butter, which is high in saturated fat, and to avoid products made with trans fats or partially hydronated fatty acids( ie, stick margarine).
The way you prepare foods matters a lot. For example, fried foods have been linked to both high cholesterol and cancer, so while French fries are hard to pass up. You can make quite acceptable baked fries, or you can treat yourself to an air fryer, which will give you the satisfying crunch of fried foods without the negative health effects.
Baking, stir-frying (this is ok because it is a quick cooking method so the foods don’t absorb the fats as they are during deep frying), roasting, and steaming are all great ways to prepare your vegetables, tofu, and meats.
4. Don’t Confuse High Cholesterol Foods with High Blood Cholesterol
Science has evolved so that we now know that foods that are high in dietary cholesterol, like egg yolk, do not cause our blood cholesterol to rise. In fact, several recent studies have disproven the age-old belief that eggs should be avoided if you have high blood cholesterol.
Better yet, eggs are back in the news. It seems that eating eggs may even be a healthy option. In a review of the research,² your heart disease risk isn’t likely to be any better if you choose an egg substitute over whole eggs. In fact, the risk for heart disease or high blood cholesterol levels did not occur in people who consumed three eggs daily for three months. Another interesting finding concerns having a breakfast comprised of two eggs, which seems to reduce the amount of adiposity, or belly fat, as compared to individuals who eat a bread-based morning meal like a bagel.¹
Actually, its foods high in saturated fats, particularly prepared and processed products, butter, the skin and fat from poultry (eg, chicken, turkey, duck) and beef that causes a rise in the LDL—or so-called bad cholesterol.
When you’re at the grocery store, make it a point to read the food label of every packaged food before you put it in the cart. Choose foods that are low cholesterol—or even no cholesterol! The Nutrition Facts label will be incredibly helpful to you as you learn what foods are high cholesterol or high fat.
You can also limit your dietary cholesterol (how much cholesterol you get from what you eat) by cutting back on egg yolks (use egg substitute or just egg whites) and high-fat meats and poultry.
Embrace A Heart Healthy, Diabetes Diet
You may have negative associations with the word “diet”—thinking that it means you can never have anything flavorful again and that you’ll be eating bland (but healthy!) food for the rest of your life, just because you want to take care of your heart and blood glucose levels.
This doesn’t have to be the case. The simple definition for diet is “the foods we eat.” It has earned a negative connotation because so many people have strayed from eating wisely so much attention has been paid to going on a “diet” to mean eating to lose weight.
However, you can reframe the word to accept it’s original meaning—to the focus has been on eating better. Eating well when you have diabetes and high blood cholesterol (diabetic hyperlipidemia) doesn’t have to be a dull affair. You may choose to make some adjustments to the way you prepare meals like swapping whole grains for white flour, adding more fruits and vegetables, using healthy oils, and finding a way to put a little creativity into your cooking. These changes will help you prepare delicious meals that you, your family and friends can enjoy and that will assure that you are keeping your heart healthy!
15 Cholesterol-Reducing Foods to Add to Your Diabetes Diet
You’ve probably heard a lot about cholesterol, but what is it, and why is it important, especially if you have diabetes?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is necessary to build cells, create vitamins and synthesize hormones.
Cholesterol isn’t bad; however, having imbalanced cholesterol levels in the blood can become a problem, especially for people with diabetes.
The liver makes about 80% of the body’s cholesterol, with the other 20% coming from your diet.
While you can’t change how much cholesterol your liver makes, you can adjust your eating habits to help promote healthy cholesterol levels.
Find out some of the best cholesterol reducing foods to include in a diabetes diet.
The dangers of high cholesterol with diabetes
High cholesterol is one of many risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease (heart disease), affecting the heart and blood vessels. Having heart disease increases the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke.
People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from heart disease as well as diabetic dyslipidemia, which is when levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol are high while levels of HDL “good” cholesterol are low.
High levels of LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol levels contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries. When plaque builds up in the arteries, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke, depending on the location. Therefore, it’s ideal to have high levels of HDL cholesterol and lower levels of LDL cholesterol.
Managing cholesterol and blood pressure is an essential part of diabetes management. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are significant risk factors for heart disease and other diabetes complications.
Incorporating cholesterol-lowering foods is one of the lifestyle changes you can make to help improve unhealthy cholesterol levels.
15 cholesterol reducing foods
Here we discuss some of the best cholesterol reducing foods to include in a diabetes diet.
Fiber is found in all plant-based foods and is beneficial for heart health. Oats are rich in soluble fiber, which is especially helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol. Soluble fibers mean they are soluble in water, whereas insoluble fibers are not soluble in water.
One study found that consuming oats lowered total cholesterol by 5% and LDL cholesterol by 10%. Part of the reason oats are one of the powerful cholesterol reducing foods is their beta-glucan content, which is a type of dietary fiber. Beta-glucans can interact with lipids (fats) and biliary salts, which are produced by the liver and help eliminate cholesterol from the body.
Not only are oats a great cholesterol reducing food, but they can also improve blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
2) Black beans
Black beans are a type of legume, which is the plant family that also contains other beans and lentils, peas, and peanuts. They are an excellent source of fiber, which many people don’t consume enough of in a typical Western diet.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming 25-30 grams of fiber per day from foods, not supplements. One half cup of black beans contains almost eight grams of fiber, nearly a third of the daily recommended amount.
Black beans can be purchased dried and prepared at home or purchased in canned form for convenience. Try to choose beans without added salt, or rinse and drain canned black beans that contain salt.
Not only does fiber help promote healthy cholesterol levels, but it also doesn’t raise blood sugar because the body can’t digest it. Choosing high-fiber carbohydrates, such as black beans, is one strategy to help optimize blood sugar control.
Flaxseeds are a tiny but mighty cholesterol reducing food that you can easily incorporate into your diet. One tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains almost two grams of dietary fiber, most of which is soluble fiber.
Studies have found that consuming products with flaxseed in them can help reduce both total and LDL cholesterol levels.
Flaxseeds are also rich in omega-3 fats, which are fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower LDL cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol and improving insulin secretion. This makes them a win-win for people with diabetes. Flaxseeds should be ground, not whole, for the body to absorb their healthy fats.
One of the most popular and versatile fruits, apples are rich in soluble fiber. Consuming 5-10 grams of soluble fiber per day (as part of the total goal of 25-30 grams of fiber per day) may help to lower LDL cholesterol.
Apples are budget-friendly, making them one of the best cholesterol reducing foods to keep on hand. One study found consuming two apples a day helped lower cholesterol levels and improve other cardiovascular health indicators in test subjects.
Another legume, lentils are packed with heart-healthy fiber. Lentils are also a great source of plant-based protein, which can help boost satiety after meals. Lentils are also rich in potassium, a mineral that helps to relax blood vessels and promote healthy blood pressure levels.
A Canadian study found an association between consuming one serving of legumes ( ¾ cup) per day and a 5% reduction in LDL cholesterol.
These fatty nuts are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and are a great fiber source. According to a small study on male test subjects, including walnuts in a heart-healthy diet is associated with reducing total cholesterol and favorable changes in LDL cholesterol.
Walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fats, which are considered heart-healthy fats compared to the saturated fats found in full-fat animal products. Saturated fats may increase LDL cholesterol, especially if they are consumed regularly in high amounts.
Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats may help promote more ideal cholesterol levels. Because of their rich fat content, freeze shelled walnuts if you won’t consume them within a couple of months after opening.
7) Whole wheat bread
Bread is a staple in most diets for its convenience and versatility. Bread can be a cholesterol reducing food if made from whole grains, which haven’t been stripped of their outer layers during processing.
Whole-grain breads are richer in fiber than refined grains, making them a more heart-healthy choice. To ensure your bread is made from whole grains, check the nutrition facts and ingredients labels. There shouldn’t be any enriched flours, and ideally, each slice should contain at least two grams of fiber.
When it comes to meat and fish, those high in saturated fat may not be the best for elevated cholesterol levels. Salmon is rich in monounsaturated fat, as well as being an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Fatty fish such as salmon is a staple in a Mediterranean-style diet. This diet links with improved health outcomes, especially in comparison to a typical Western diet.
Eating salmon also relates to improved blood pressure levels compared to a diet that doesn’t contain any fish and significantly increases HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
This fiber-rich fruit is an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, as well as being rich in fiber. One half cup of cubed avocado contains five grams of fiber and 10% of the daily recommended amount of blood pressure-lowering potassium.
Avocados are versatile and can be used on sandwiches, salads, Mexican-style recipes, or enjoyed on their own. You can also blend them into smoothies or use them in place of butter in some baked goods.
10) Olive oil
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Consumption of olive oil can increase HDL cholesterol and reduce LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is the “good” type of cholesterol because it has anti-inflammatory properties and can help offset the negative qualities of LDL cholesterol.
Olive oil is versatile cooking oil, but it’s important to note that it doesn’t have the highest smoke point. The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which the oil turns to smoke and stops being effective at cooking. Olive oil’s smoke point can range anywhere from 365-405 degrees Fahrenheit.
So if you’re cooking at temperatures above 400 degrees, you might want to use a higher smoke point oil such as avocado oil.
11) Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are not only rich in nutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin C, and B-vitamins. But they are also a fantastic source of cholesterol-reducing soluble fiber with two grams of soluble fiber per half-cup.
Brussel sprouts consumption may also reduce the risk of some cancers, especially colon cancer.
While all fruit contains fiber, berries are especially rich in fiber. Raspberries are a fiber powerhouse with eight grams of fiber per one cup.
Consumption of berries can significantly reduce LDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading), fasting blood sugar, body mass index, and hemoglobin A1c, and tumor necrosis factor (a measure of inflammation).
13) Foods with plant sterols and stanols
Food enriched with plant sterols and stanols have shown promise in their ability to lower cholesterol levels. When taken in amounts between 2-2.5 grams per day, products enriched with plant stanol/sterol esters can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 10% to 14% without any reported side effects.
Plant sterols and stanols are in small amounts in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. However, foods enriched with plant sterols and stanols help people get high enough amounts to lower cholesterol.
Examples of foods enriched with sterols and stanols include certain margarine, orange juice, and supplements. Reading the nutrition facts label can tell you if a food has sterols and stanols in it.
Foods made from soybeans such as tofu, edamame, and foods with soy protein may help lower cholesterol. Soy isoflavones, which are antioxidant compounds, can significantly reduce both total and LDL cholesterol levels.
15) Dark chocolate
You don’t have to give up dessert while trying to lower your cholesterol! Dark chocolate can increase HDL cholesterol, which may reduce the risk of heart disease even if total cholesterol is high.
The polyphenols in dark chocolate are believed to be responsible for raising HDL cholesterol while making LDL cholesterol less likely to cause oxidative damage, which can cause damage to cells, DNA and speed up aging.
Dark chocolate with at least 60% cacao solids is lower in sugar and higher in fiber than other chocolates. Therefore, this makes it a good choice for people with diabetes.
As a tip, the higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the lower the sugar content!
Having high cholesterol when you have diabetes puts you at greater risk of heart disease and stroke complications. People with diabetes are more likely to have high levels of bad cholesterol and low levels of good cholesterol, which isn’t ideal for heart health.
Incorporating cholesterol reducing foods into your diet is one of the lifestyle changes you can make to improve your cholesterol numbers. Most foods that can lower cholesterol are rich in fiber, low in saturated fat, high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, and are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.