High cholesterol levels are major factors of heart disease; however it can be treated through diet and exercise. A healthy diet is the first step for lowering cholesterol levels. It is reported that most individuals can reduce their cholesterol level 15-20% by reducing the intake of foods high in cholesterol and fat, especially saturated fat. Healthy Eating is crucial for managing our cholesterol levels.
Saturated and unsaturated fats
While some fats can be helpful in keeping our cholesterol levels low, other can raise our cholesterol levels and place us at a higher risk of getting heart disease later on.
Saturated fats are those that become hard at room temperature found mostly in animal-based foods, such as meat, milk, butter and cheese; and in coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter. We should limit saturated fats intake because they harm our blood vessels, and increase the risk for developing hardening of the arteries called atherosclerosis. Saturated fats also affect the levels of cholesterol in the blood and increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease. It is suggested by health experts that most of our fat calories should be from monounsaturated fats, such as from olive oil, peanut oil, avocados, and nuts or polyunsaturated fats, such as from liquid vegetable oils, corn oil, or soybean oil.
As we all know, medication will finally lead to side effects to our body, we should stick to natural treatments as possible as we can. Having a healthy diet is the first step towards good cholesterol management.
What should we eat?
Foods with low-saturated-fat, trans fat-free, and low-cholesterol are recommended, such as:
- Soy products including tofu, soy milk, soy protein powder and soy/veggie burgers
- Fish, especially fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, and trout. This type of fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids and they are thought to lower LDL, the bad cholesterol. At least 2 servings baked or grilled each week are recommended
- Lean meats and poultry without skin, recommended up to 5 to 6 total ounces per day
- Low-Fat dairy products using semi skimmed or skimmed milk, low fat yogurts
- Foods high in polyunsaturated fats, such as nuts, seeds and vegetable oils and monounsaturated fats, such as olive, soybean oils, walnut oil and avocado, 4 to 5 servings per week are recommended
- A variety of fruits and vegetables, 8 to 10 servings per day are recommended
- Beans and peas
- A variety of grain products like bread, cereal, rice and pasta, prefer whole grains and 6 or more servings per day are recommended
What should we limit?
- Fatty meats
- High-fat processed meats like sausage, salami and hot dogs
- Goose and duck
- Organ meats like liver, kidney
- Fried foods
- Prawns, shrimp and fish roe
- Saturated oils like coconut oil, palm oil
- Saturated fats hydrogenated margarine and lard
- Dairy products such as full milk, cream, cheese, butter and ice cream
- Egg yolks, it is recommended to limit to 2 a week
- Cakes, pies, crisps, biscuits, sweets and chocolate
- Cut off all visible fat from meat before cooking
- Take all the skin off poultry pieces before cooking or eating
- Try to grill or steam meats instead of frying or roasting
- Place meat on a rack to allow the fat to drain off, if you do roast or bake
- Use vegetable oil, such as sunflower when frying
- Instead of regular cheese, use low-fat cottage cheese, part-skim milk mozzarella and other fat-free or low-fat cheeses
- Make recipes or egg dishes with egg whites or egg substitutes, not yolks
- Serve smaller portions of higher-fat dishes
- Serve bigger portions of lower-fat dishes like pasta, rice, beans and vegetables
- Buy low fat foods ensure they are labeled “low in saturated fat, trans fat free”
- Buy low cholesterol foods ensure they are labeled “low in cholesterol”
- Buy low sugar foods ensure they are labeled “low in sugar”
- Buy a variety of vegetables, fruits, fish and soy products
Low- Cholesterol diet tips
Some healthy adjustments to our diet can lower our cholesterol levels effectively. Here are some top of low-cholesterol foods:
Fiber, specifically soluble fiber, is considered as the vacuum cleaner of our body. Cholesterol and other fats are found in the bile. Fiber binds with bile and is excreted from our body. This is done before our intestines absorb cholesterol, therefore effectively lowering our cholesterol levels and keeping us healthy. The soluble fiber can be found in oatmeal, which helps reduce the amount of bad cholesterol, also known as LDL (low-density lipoprotein) absorbed as food moves through our digestive tract. It is reported that one and a half cups of oatmeal contains about 4½ grams may lower our LDL cholesterol by approximately 5%.
The cholesterol lowering effect of soy milk and its role of heart disease was widely recognized in the mid 90s when the results of a meta-analysis of 38 clinical studies were published. The results demonstrated that a diet with significant soy protein reduces Total Cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, the “Bad” cholesterol and Triglycerides.
Include fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids in our diet such as salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, sardines, trout and herring help lower cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids are known for reducing the risks of blood hypertension and blood clotting. Eating two servings of fish per week has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Bake or grill the fish to lock in the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids is recommended.
Walnuts and almonds
Among the nuts, walnuts and almonds contain significant amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are great helpful for maintaining healthy blood vessels. Studies have shown that walnuts can significantly reduce blood cholesterol. Almonds appear to have a similar effect, resulting in a marked improvement within just four weeks.
It is reported that a cholesterol-lowering diet in which 20 percent of the calories come from walnuts may reduce LDL cholesterol by as much as 12 percent. But all nuts are high in calories, so a handful, no more than 2 ounces or 57 grams, will do. As with any food, eating too much can cause weight gain, and being overweight places us at higher risk of heart disease. Nuts can be eaten as a snack or sprinkled on salads or with other foods.
Israeli researchers studied the effect of pomegranate juice on heart disease parameters in patients with diabetes and concluded that pomegranate juice may help halt the development of atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries in people with diabetes. The results of this study were published in the Atherosclerosis journal in August 2006. Preliminary evidence suggested that drinking concentrated pomegranate juice may reduce cholesterol. It was further suggested that drinking a glass of pomegranate juice a day for one year reduced blood pressure, particularly systolic pressure and slowed down LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol oxidation.
Pomegranate juice helps to erode cholesterol buildup and causes an increase in the production of nitric oxide in the body, which further helps prevent against rising cholesterol levels.
The unsaturated fat in avocados helps us protect against heart disease while increasing our body’s production of healthy cholesterol. The reason is that avocado is a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which helps to raise levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, protecting our arteries, while lowering levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.
According to a recent study in Brisbane, Australia reported that eating avocados daily for three weeks improved blood cholesterol in middle-aged women better than a low-fat diet did. The daily amount of avocado ranged from 1/2 avocado for small women to 1 1/2 for large women. Therefore, by eating right amount of avocados, heart patients are expecting to cut their risk of heart attack.
This article discusses how to reduce cholesterol levels by eating healthy foods; on the other hand, regular physical activity is crucial for reducing cholesterol levels. In addition, heart diseases depend on the number of risk factors besides high blood cholesterol levels. Some diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure also impact on blood cholesterol, and raise the risk for heart disease as well.
Eating a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, getting plenty of exercise, managing a healthy weight can help us prevent high cholesterol levels. Because cholesterol levels tend to increase with age, we should pay attention to diet and exercise particularly as we are getting older.
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