Having diabetes increases your chances of developing heart disease, the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S. But developing heart disease is not an inevitable side effect of diabetes. There are many dietary and lifestyle habits that may help to decrease your risks. One of the most surprising ways to reduce heart disease risk is by focusing on not just what you eat, but what foods you eat together. Certain combinations of food can work together to maximize your overall health. Get ready to rethink the way you meal plan!
#1. Dark Chocolate and Apples
Love chocolate covered fruit? You are in luck! Covering your fruit, specifically apples, in chocolate can actually protect your heart. Apples contain a high level of quercetin, which is an anti-inflammatory substance that has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease. Dark chocolate contains catechins, which can help decrease the risk of hardening arteries. When eaten together, these two substances can help to reduce the stickiness of blood platelets, which can provide another protective benefit to your heart. However, not just any chocolate will do. Make sure to select dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao.
If you have been eating fish on a regular basis to help boost your heart health, you are on the right track. Omega 3 fatty acids have been associated with a reduction in triglyceride levels. However, high dosages of omega 3s (usually from taking a large amount of fish oil supplements) may increase your level of LDL-cholesterol, the “lousy” cholesterol that can clog arteries and increase disease risk by 5-10%. To guard against this, try adding garlic into your diet. A study at the University of Guelpht in Canada found the combination of garlic with fish oil reduced both triglyceride levels as well as LDL cholesterol.
Carrots are rich in carotenoids, a fat-soluble pigment which gives them their orange color. This nutrient has also been found to decrease inflammation and have a preventative effect on cardiovascular events. However, carotenoids are not well absorbed in the absence of fat. Many foods rich in carotenoids, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, contain little fat naturally. However, adding a healthy source of plant based fat, such as hummus, to a carotenoid rich food has been found to enhance the absorption, helping to boost blood levels and protect against heart disease.
Although salad by itself is a nutrient dense meal, eating it in the absence of dietary fat may limit your body’s ability to absorb many nutrients. One study found that by simply adding avocado slices to a salad, the absorption of the nutrients lutein, lycopene, β-carotene, and α-carotene were enhanced. Multiple studies have found a link between these nutrients and a reduction in cardiovascular disease. By simply adding avocado to a meal rich in vegetables and fruit, you may enhance overall nutrient absorption, maximizing health benefits.
The red color of tomatoes may just be a clue into its valuable benefit for heart health. Tomatoes and tomato products are rich in the phytochemical lycopene, which helps to provide their color. Diets rich in this antioxidant have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease. However, lycopene is best absorbed in the body in the presence of dietary fat. Cue olive oil. By simply adding a fat, such as a dash of olive oil, into your marinara sauce, you can increase your body’s ability to absorb lycopene and gain the heart health benefits this super nutrient provides.