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Healthy Fats Help People with Diabetes


Chef Franklin Becker

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The Five Fat Challenge: Salmon-Avocado Caponata

This diabetes-friendly recipe has five essential fats.

This kale salad will put more fiber in your diet and put you on track to feeling great.

Great food is all about bringing out flavor. A little fat in a dish can really make the ingredients sing. But people with diabetes—who have a high risk for heart disease—need to focus on heart-healthy fats.

Good Fats

Mono and polyunsaturated fats help reduce cholesterol and keep arteries healthy. Good sources include:

  • Avocados

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Most vegetable oils (but avoid palm or palm kernel oil, coconut oil, or any hydrogenated oils containing trans fats)

The lean protein from this pan-roasted chicken can help stabilize your blood sugar levels.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Feb 16, 2015

2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

You may have heard of omega-3 fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fats are especially heart-healthy. They are found in:

  • Canola oil

  • Flaxseed

  • Salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, lake trout, sardines, and other fatty fish

  • Tofu

  • Walnuts

Not-So-Good Fats

The saturated fats in meat, butter, and full-fat dairy products may raise blood cholesterol and contribute to heart disease. Why take the risk? Enjoy these foods occasionally, but don’t make them the mainstay of your diet.

Cooking With Good Fats

I use healthy fats in my cooking, and I encourage you to give them a whirl. Of course, even good fats have a lot of calories, so don’t overdo it. Use just enough to enhance flavor and texture.

  • Olive oil is my favorite vegetable oil, hands down. It’s rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and has a mild, earthy taste. Sauté chard or spinach in a little olive oil and garlic for extra flavor. Toss chunks of carrots and parsnips in olive oil and roast them in the oven. Olive oil is wonderful in salad dressings and sauces, too.

  • Avocado, with its nutty flavor and creamy texture, can be the star of a meal. Pair avocado with grapefruit or orange slices to make a refreshing salad. Use mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches. Guacamole—a dip of mashed avocado and tomato chunks spiked with lime juice and seasonings—is always a favorite. Serve a dollop alongside grilled chicken or fish.

  • Nuts are fantastic. You get flavor, protein, antioxidants, and good fats all in one little package. Research suggests that eating nuts can even help people manage their weight. So have a dozen or so almonds for a snack. Sprinkle chopped walnuts or pistachios on salads and oatmeal. Use ground pecans as a breading for fish or chicken.

When you pair small amounts of good fats with fresh, wholesome ingredients, you’re on your way to creating a delicious, healthy diet for diabetes.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jan 29, 2017

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Nuts, Especially Walnuts, Have Both Antioxidant Quantity and Efficacy and Exhibit Significant Potential Health Benefits. J.A. Vinson and Y. Cai. Food & Function. 2012;3:134. (
  2. Fats, American Diabetes Association, September 24, 2014 (
  3. In a Nutshell, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Accessed Dec. 23, 2014 (
  4. Choose Healthy Fats, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, January 2013 (

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