|Foods that Lower Cholesterol
We often tell peoples to take nutritional changes at a pace that feels
comfortable to them. That's not good enough when it comes to
cardiovascular disease. The consequences of doing too little are
severe-heart attack, stroke, or worse. Sadly, not everyone gets a
second chance. So please don't wait until after the next vacation,
or your daughter's wedding, or that anniversary dinner to start.
Our advice is to start immediately and go for broke! Change your
diet, change your habits, change your lifestyle.
High cholesterol can be caused by several factors, some you can
change, and some you can't. Heredity can play a big part. Some
people can have a perfect heart-healthy lifestyle, and still have
skyrocketing cholesterol because their bodies naturally make too
much of it- our bodies' production of cholesterol is independent from
what we eat. For these folks, medication is often the only way to bring
down their numbers. However, for the vast majority of people
diagnosed with high cholesterol, you can improve your profile by reducing
body weight (if you are overweight), increasing physical activity, and
following my cholesterol-busting nutrition program.
Right off the bat, We tell you this:
If you are overweight, focus on losing weight. Research has
shown that losing just 10 pounds can reduce LDL cholesterol by
5 to 8 percent.
Become more physically active. Even moderate exercise can
help improve your cholesterol, as well as triglycerides, and blood
Specific foods to limit or avoid
The top dietary recommendations for lowering cholesterol are to
eliminate or at least drastically limit the foods you eat that contain
saturated fats, trans fats, dietary cholesterol, and refined carbohydrates.
Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods, including meats, butter,
whole-milk dairy products (including yogurt, cheese, and ice cream),
and poultry skin. They are also found in some high-fat plant foods,
including palm oil. Numerous studies have shown that by replacing
saturated fat with olive oil or nuts (monounsaturated fat)... you can
reduce LDL-cholesterol by significant amounts.
Trans fats were developed in a laboratory to improve the shelf life of
processed foods -- and they do. But calorie for calorie, trans fats are
even more dangerous than the saturated fats. Most stick margarines
contain trans fats, and trans fats are found in many packaged baked
goods, potato chips, snack foods, fried foods, and fast food that use
or create "hydrogenated oils". (All food labels must now list the amount
of trans fats, right after the amount of saturated fats - good news for
consumers.) There is no safe amount of trans fats, so try to keep them
as far from your plate as possible.
Years ago, doctors used to recommend that people with heart disease
avoid all high-cholesterol foods. But dietary cholesterol does not harm
health as much as saturated fats and trans fats do. Research into the effects
of dietary cholesterol have been mixed, which is not surprising-different
people have different susceptibilities. Still, if you want to take a firm hand
to reduce your risk factors, you may want to consider cutting down on
all high-cholesterol foods, including egg yolks, shellfish, liver, and other
organ meats like sweetbreads and foie gras.
Good foods to choose:
Soluble fiber, may help reduce cholesterol by grabbing onto cholesterol
and escorting it through your digestive system and out of your body.
It also may reduce the intestinal absorption of cholesterol as well. Some
of the best soluble fiber rich foods include; oatmeal, barley, lentils,
Brussels sprouts, peas, beans (kidney, lima, black, navy, pinto),
apples, blackberries, pears, raisins, oranges, grapefruit, dates, figs,
prunes, apricots, broccoli, and sweet potato.
Healthy fats - Omega 3 Fats and Monounsaturated Fats
There was a time when heart researchers slapped the same label --
"bad" -- on every kind of fat. Now, we know that trans fats and
saturated fats are amazingly dangerous for cardiovascular health,
but omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats are actually good for
your heart. Heart-healthy fish oils are especially rich in omega-3
fatty acids. In multiple studies over the past 15 years, people who
ate diets high in omega-3s had 30 to 40 percent reductions in heart
disease, and fewer cases of sudden death from arrhythmia.
Omega-3s seem to reduce inflammation, reduce high blood pressure,
decrease triglycerides, help to make blood thinner and less sticky so
it is less likely to clot... PLUS raise HDL cholesterol (that's the good
cholesterol)! So omega-3s affect nearly every risk factor for heart disease.
We recommend eating at least three servings (4-ounce portions) of one
of the omega-3-rich fish every week - fish like wild salmon, sardines,
anchovies and mackerel (not king). If you cannot manage to eat that
much fatty fish, incorporate omega 3 fortified eggs and additional plant
based sources like walnuts, soybeans and ground flax.
Scientists discovered the benefits of monounsaturated fats, mainly found
in olive oil by observing Mediterranean populations. They use olive oil
more than any other form of fat and typically have low rates of coronary
artery disease. Research shows it doesn't help to just add
monounsaturated fats to your diet-you need to replace some of the
unhealthy fats that are already in your diet (all those saturated and trans
fats mentioned earlier) with better choices. There is evidence that substituting
olive oil for saturated fat and low-quality refined carbohydrates can lower
LDL-cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and increase HDL-Cholesterol
(the good cholesterol). Best foods for monounsaturated fats include:
olive oil and olives, canola oil, avocado, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts,
pecans, almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachio nuts and natural peanut butter.
Plant sterols or stanols
Sterols and stanols are natural substances found in small amounts in
the cell membrane of plants, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts,
and seeds. They are found in relatively high amounts in pistachio nuts,
sunflower seeds, and wheat germ. Sterols and stanols have a structure
similar to cholesterol, and they compete with cholesterol for access to
receptors in the small intestines. Imagine 15 people all hoping to get a
ride in their friend's Volkswagen Beetle -not everyone is going to be
riding in the car. Sterols/stanols compete with cholesterol, effective
blocking its access. Research has shown that sterols and stanols have
been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels by between 5 and 14 percent.
You can reap these cardiovascular benefits with just 2 grams of
sterol/stanol per day, though you can't get that much eating fruits
and vegetables alone. Sterols and stanols have been added to
certain heart-healthy spreads that taste and cook just like margarine,
including Take Control and Benecol spreads. That said they're only for
those with cholesterol problems, who should consume no more than the
amounts recommended: 2 to 3 tablespoons per day (each tablespoon
provides one gram of sterol/stanol). You can use it on whole-grain bread,
melt it on heart-healthy vegetables, or use it in cooking. We recommend
trying the light versions of these spreads to save yourself 30 calories per
tablespoon. If you're not a bread eater, please don't start just to have a
vehicle for these spreads! Instead consider the plant stanol/sterol supplements.
My favorite is Cholest-Off by Nature Made. You have to take two tablets
in the morning and two tablets at night (a total of four tablets a day),
15 to 30 minutes before a meal. If you are taking a prescription
cholesterol-lowering medication, talk with your doctor before taking