WHAT IS CHOLESTEROL?
Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream on proteins called “lipoprotiens.” These lipoprotiens are categorized into two types: Low Density Lipoprotien (otherwise known as LDL and sometimes called the ‘bad’ cholesterol) and High-Density Lipoprotien (known as HDL and sometimes called the ‘good’ cholesterol). These lipoprotiens are responsible for carrying cholesterol from your body back to your liver, which then removes the cholesterol from your body.
When the body has too high LDL, this can create clogs in your bloodstream, making it difficult to dispose of the cholesterol and for your blood to circulate properly.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS FOR HIGH CHOLESTEROL?
Treatments for high-cholesterol include heart-healthy lifestyle changes as well as medications for more severe cases. The lifestyle changes can include healthy eating and diet, weight management, and regular physical activity.
By paying attention to the foods you eat, you can limit your intake of foods that will increase your cholesterol levels, helping to keep your LDL at a low count.
Exercise helps increase your bloodflow, making it easier for your body to process cholesterol.
HOW CAN I LOWER CHOLESTEROL WITH DIET?
One popular diet used to help lower your cholesterol is called the DASH eating plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). This diet is based on research studies and sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Studies have shown that the DASH eating plan lowers high blood pressure and improves levels of cholesterol by:
- Putting an emphasis on vegetables, fruits and whole-grains
- Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
- Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, including fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernal, and palm oils
- Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets
Another diet that has proven to help lower cholesterol is the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet. This eating plan puts an emphasis on consuming specific foods that help to lower and manage your cholesterol. This diet includes the same guidelines as the DASH eating plan, with a few additions to its recommendations.
Here is a more in-depth dive into how you can incorporate a cholesterol-friendly diet into your lifestyle:
- Choosing healthier fats: No more than 25-35% of your daily calories should come from dietary fats and less than 7% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats.
- Saturated fat raises your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels more than anything else in your diet. It is found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods
- Trans fat is another bad fat, that can raise your LDL and lower your HDL (good cholesterol). This is mostly in foods made with hydrogenated oils and fats such as margarine, crackers, and french fries.
- Try using healthier fats such as lean meat, nuts, and unsaturated oils such as canola, olive oil, and safflower oils.
Limit foods with cholesterol: You should have less than 200mg a day of cholesterol when trying to lower your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is in foods of animal origin, such as liver and other organ meats, egg yolks, shrimp, and whole milk diary products.
- Eat plenty of soluble fiber: Foods high in soluble fiber help prevent your digestive tract form absorbing cholesterol. These include:
- Whole-grain cereals such as oatmeal and oat bran
- Fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, pears, and prunes
- Legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, chick peas, black-eyed peas, and lima beans
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables can increase important cholesterol-lowering compounds that are found in other aspects of your diet. These compounds are called plant stanols or sterols and they work similar to soluble fiber.
Eat fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids won’t lower your LDL cholesterol levels, but they may help increase your HDL level, which is healthy for your body. These acids also may protect your heart from blood clots and inflammation, reducing your risk of heart attack. Fish that are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, tuna, and mackerel.
Limit salt: Limiting your salt intake won’t lower your cholesterol, but it can however lower your risk of heart diseases by helping to lower your blood pressure. Choosing low-salt and no-added salt options for foods and seasonings can help you accomplish a lower overall sodium intake.
- Limit alcohol: Alcohol adds extra calories to your diet, which can lead to unintentional weight gain. Being overweight can raise your LDL levels and lower your HDL levels, and too much alcohol can also increase your risk of heart diseases. Alcohol has been associated with increased blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
THE BIG PICTURE
By following these dietary tips, you can begin a journey towards lowering and maintaining your cholesterol naturally. Limit eating foods that increase your LDL cholesterol or lower your HDL cholesterol, and eat plenty of foods that promote heart health and cardiovascular health to avoid associated issues.
Information in this article attributed to: https://medlineplus.gov/lowcholesteroldiet.html
U.S. National Library of Medicine