Tips for Eating with High Cholesterol and Diabetes

Helpful Tips for Controlling Both Conditions

plate of salad and salmon
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If you have been diagnosed with both high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes*, you may be feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of changing your diet. You should know that there is considerable overlap for how to eat with the two conditions and that it is not as difficult as you may think.

There are several things to keep in mind when it comes to your diet. Here are three first steps for managing high cholesterol and diabetes through your diet.

Increase Fiber

First things first. Eat more vegetables! There's a reason the diabetic plate method recommends filling half of your plate with nonstarchy vegetables: they're loaded with fiber! (They're also super high in good-for-you phytonutrients, but fiber is the big one for both cholesterol and diabetes.)

Fiber is the indigestible part of plants. Meaning, you eat it, it fills you up, but it doesn't add any calories. That's helpful for diabetes since many people with type 2 diabetes are also watching their weight. Soluble fiber (the kind found in beans, apples, oatmeal) also aids in lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol and also helps to keep blood glucose levels steady. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are the best sources of fiber. Aim to increase the amount of fiber you eat every day gradually, to at least 25 grams per day if you're a woman; 38 grams per day if you're a man.

Choose Good Fats Over Bad Fats

Another healthy change for both diabetes and high cholesterol is to swap the fats and oils you use.

As a general rule, you want to eat more monounsaturated fats (found in foods such as walnuts, avocado, and olive oil) and decrease saturated fats (found in marbled meats and full-fat dairy products) and trans fats (found in fried foods and baked goods).

Lose Weight

Alright, we promised simple solutions and this one might be harder, but getting to a healthy weight can improve both your diabetes and your high cholesterol.

And, as you know, how you eat affects your weight. Losing weight can help you lower your average blood glucose levels, as well as lower your total cholesterol and LDL "bad" cholesterol.

One of the best ways to begin a weight loss plan is to start keeping a food record of what you are eating. Record the time you eat, and the amounts every day for three days (two weekdays and one weekend day). At the end of the three days, have your record analyzed by a registered dietitian, or use an online program to determine the average number of calories you are eating. You can also learn other patterns--such as how many vegetables you're eating (or not eating), and the main kinds of fat in your diet.

Along with physical activity, controlling your daily calorie intake is the key to weight loss. Following a set menu plan can be a helpful way to keep your diet under control. Begin by calculating your daily calorie requirements to find the calorie level you need for weight loss.

Small Changes Can Make a Difference

Keep in mind that you are not alone.

High cholesterol and diabetes are two of the most common medical conditions among American adults. Aim to make dietary changes gradually, congratulate yourself for the positive changes that you are able to make, and be sure to talk to a medical professional for advice.

*Note that there are several forms of diabetes. Not all forms can be managed through diet alone. Make sure you check with your physician for specific steps for managing your condition.

Sources

Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke National Diabetes information clearinghouse (NDIC).

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