It is possible to lower your cholesterol by making positive changes to the food that you eat on a daily basis. This is important, because if you are able to make progress with dietary changes you can reduce your reliance on cholesterol medication. Today we are going to take a closer look at how to lower cholesterol with diet. At Super Health Chatswood Medical Centre we are committed to helping our patients live their healthiest lives, and provide nutritional support to help you achieve your wellness goals.
What Is Cholesterol And Where Does It Come From?
Your liver produces cholesterol, a fatty substance that is found in your blood. There are also different foods that contain it – this is known as dietary cholesterol. Believe it or not, dietary cholesterol plays a minor role in the total amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream.
You will get high levels of cholesterol in your blood when you eat food that is high in saturated and trans-fat, and do not eat enough fibre and unsaturated fat.
Why Is Too Much Cholesterol Bad For You?
There are two primary types of cholesterol you should familiarise yourself with: low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL is considered ‘bad’ for your health because it contributes to the accumulation of plaque inside your arteries. This restricts the size of the artery and the amount of blood that it can accommodate, increasing blood pressure and forcing your heart to pump harder to send oxygen around your body.
HDL is considered good for your health because it can provide protection against coronary heart disease. In terms of cholesterol levels, most healthy people have higher levels of LDL than HDL, but we strive to have lower LDL and higher HDL.
What Are The Symptoms Of High Cholesterol?
It is also quite normal for a person with high cholesterol to feel quite well and not present with any symptoms. The only sure way to know where your cholesterol levels are sitting, is to have a blood test with your healthcare practitioner.
Following A Diet To Reduce Cholesterol
There are four primary contributors to high cholesterol – and three of the four concern diet. Only one factor – genetics – would be beyond your control.
The other three contributors can be managed by following a diet to reduce cholesterol. These are:
- Reducing your intake of food high in trans- and saturated fat
- Increasing your intake of fibre-rich foods
- Reducing your intake of dietary cholesterol
Changing how you eat
Eating a balanced diet that spans all five food groups is always a good place to start. Following a cholesterol diet plan is a lifestyle shift and requires your long term commitment.
Let’s remind you what the five food groups are
- Vegetables and legumes. Aim for five servings (cups per day). Try to at as many different colours as possible.
- Fruit. Aim for two servings of fresh fruit every day. Fruit contains sugar and is great for managing sweet cravings.
- Grains. Opt for wholegrain where possible. Choose whole wheat pasta over white, and brown rice over white.
- Lean meats
- Dairy and dairy alternatives
The reason for foods being grouped as they are is because they deliver similar nutrients. You have a better chance of getting the full scope of required nutrients if you eat from all five food groups, than if you limit yourself to two or three.
Other Positive Food Choices For A Cholesterol Diet Plan
Cook your own food
This makes it easier to avoid restaurant and take-away options, which are usually plied with sugar, salt and hidden fat (not to mention portion sizes that are just way too big).
Choose a day or two where you skip meat
Get your protein fix from beans and legumes a few times a week. Animal fats are high cholesterol while beans and legumes provide a protein punch while giving you a generous serving of fibre. When you do eat meat, choose lean cuts, and skinless portions.
Include fish and eggs in your diet
Fish and eggs are important sources of essential fatty acids that help to regulate the cholesterol levels in your blood.
Eat fibre-rich food
Soluble fibre (like that found in beans and legumes) helps to regulate the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood.
Include plant sterols in your diet
Eat plant sterol-rich foods like bread, milk and margarine enriched with plant sterols.
Switch to healthy monounsaturated fats
Swap out butter, sunflower and coconut oil for healthier alternatives like peanut oil, canola and olive oil. Include more nuts and avocados in your diet to help you out.
Eat small amounts regularly
Bingeing and overeating causes your fat deposits to store a fat called triglycerides. You do need some triglycerides to provide you with sustained energy between meals, but the research suggests that people who have high levels of triglycerides may be at increased risk of heart disease.
Eating a few smaller meals throughout the day, with an allowance for healthy snacks can help to keep you feeling full throughout the day.
Your body should be hydrated with water. It doesn’t need sweet or sugary drinks to function. Often we think we are hungry or craving something – when all we need is hydration.
Still need tips on how to lower cholesterol with diet? We would love to help you create an eating plan that complements your lifestyle and that you know you can live with. Please contact us for assistance: (02) 9884 9300.