People with diabetes need to limit their fat intake to decrease their risk of developing heart disease. Learn about good fats and bad fats and why you should restrict the amounts you eat.
If you have diabetes, you know that you need to count carbohydrates carefully to keep blood sugar stable. Here’s what’s equally important when it comes to your diabetes diet and diabetes management in general — controlling fat intake.
That’s because diabetes already puts you at an increased risk for heart disease — diabetes slowly damages the arteries in the body unless blood sugar is very tightly controlled. If you don’t eat wisely by following a diabetes diet that reduces fat intake, you’re likely to further increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Need some convincing? Three out of four people with diabetes die of some type of heart disease, and U.S. government figures estimate that the risk of stroke is two to four times greater in adults with diabetes than in those who don’t have this condition.
Diabetes Management: Types of Diabetes
The increased risk of cardiovascular disease exists no matter which of the three types of diabetes you have:
Type 1 diabetes. With this type, your body cannot produce insulin, the hormone that helps process glucose. You must eat carefully at all times to lower the risk of complications such as heart disease.
Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetics produce insulin, but their cells have developed a resistance to it, often because they are overweight or obese. Watching your fat intake is a necessary part of losing weight and keeping diabetes under control.
Gestational diabetes. If you develop diabetes during pregnancy, you need to watch your fat intake to keep from gaining too much weight as well as to prevent additional stress on your body that could harm you or your unborn baby.
Bad Fats, Good Fats
Not all fats are bad for you, but it’s important to learn the difference.
Saturated fats and trans fats. These are considered bad fats because they increase your body’s production of low density cholesterol (LDL). They also cause plaques to form in your coronary arteries, narrowing the arteries and forcing your heart to work harder to pump blood. This increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. These are the good fats. These fats actually help rid your bloodstream of LDL cholesterol, reducing your risk of developing arterial blockages.
Cholesterol. This fat-like substance performs many useful functions in the body. But the liver makes sufficient cholesterol on its own, so cholesterol intake from food must be limited to 200 milligrams per day if you have diabetes, or else the risk of clogged arteries increases.
Keep in mind that for good diabetes management, even good fats should be eaten in small quantities. All fats — both good and bad — contain more than twice as many calories per gram as either carbohydrates or protein. You need to eat some fats to support vital body functions, but eating too much of any type of fat will add unwanted calories that can lead to gain weight.
Watching Fat Intake
A diabetes diet requires you to eliminate as much of the bad fats as possible. Use these guidelines to make the best choices:
Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. They include the animal fat contained in cuts of meat; dairy products, such as milk, butter and cheeses; coconut and palm oils; and the skin of chicken, turkey, and other poultry. You should keep your intake of saturated fats to a maximum of 7 percent of your total daily calories. For the average diet, that equates to 15 grams.
Trans fats are liquid oils that are turned into solid fat through a process called hydrogenation. They are particularly bad for you, as they not only raise your levels of bad fats, but also reduce the amount of good fats in your bloodstream. They can be found in many processed foods because they are very stable and help prolong shelf life. Look at the ingredient lists of products for hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils — those are trans fats. You should aim to completely eliminate trans fats from your diet.
Because you do need some fats as part of your daily diet, you want to replace bad fats with good ones like these:
- Monounsaturated fats are found in avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, canola oil, and peanut butter.
- Polyunsaturated fats are found in most other forms of vegetable oils, such as corn, cottonseed, safflower, and soybean oil.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, soybean products, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
By lowering or eliminating your intake of bad fats and controlling your intake of good fats, you will go a long way toward lowering your heart disease risk.
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