How you can manage high cholesterol with a fork, knife, and spoon.
It’s not dangerous until it becomes deadly. Then, your high cholesterol is all you can think of. When this cholesterol pairs up with fat and other substances to create plaque, it often builds up in the arteries, ultimately restricting blood flow to your heart and the rest of your body.
With reduced blood flow, your heart is forced to work overtime. Thankfully there are ways to lower your cholesterol level. One of the best ways to lower cholesterol and prevent it from getting out of hand in the first place is being conscious of what you put into your body.
As approximately 25 percent of your body’s cholesterol comes from what you eat, choosing carefully can give your arteries, heart, and the rest of your body the upper hand against high cholesterol. Keep reading to find out what you should be eating as part of your heart- and artery-healthy diet.
Fruits and Vegetables
Some of nature’s most powerful foods in the fight against heart disease are fiber-filled fruits and veggies. Try to eat at least four and a half cups of any variety of fresh, dried, canned, or frozen fruits (with no added sugar) and any fresh, frozen, or canned (low-sodium) veggies without sauces or creams.
Also high in soluble fiber (a weapon against low-density lipoprotein—a.k.a. bad—cholesterol) are whole grains. Read nutrition labels on food packages to determine if breads, cereals, and rice are made from whole grains. Here’s what to look for: whole-wheat, rye, or pumpernickel bread; soft corn or whole-wheat tortillas; white, brown, basmati, jasmine, or wild rice; and hot cereal or whole-grain cold cereal.
Another food rich in dietary fiber are legumes (a class of vegetables also called beans). Include legumes in the recommended 10 grams of soluble fiber needed each day to lower cholesterol. Examples of legumes include peas, lentils, black beans, lima beans, navy beans, edemame, and chickpeas. Also high in protein, legumes are a heart-healthy alternative to protein sources high in saturated fats and cholesterol.
Any heart-healthy diet has plenty of lean protein. Examples include white chicken or turkey without the skin, white meat fish, lean cuts of meat, egg whites, and reduced-fat peanut butter. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, mackerel, and lake trout) are especially helpful in lowering cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. Aim to eat two servings of fish a week.
When it comes to fat, choose wisely. If you must use added fat, choose unsaturated fats such as those found in margarine or canola, olive, corn, sunflower, or peanut oil, as unsaturated fats don’t raise cholesterol levels. Another safe fat is monounsaturated fat. Olive oil is high in this type of fat, as well as omega-3 fatty acids.
Want to lower your cholesterol and your heart-attack risk? Add two tablespoons of olive oil to your diet each day. Cook with olive oil or drizzle it on your salads or veggies, and if you’re looking for low-fat, heart-healthy snacks, try pretzels, unbuttered popcorn, and baked tortilla chips.
Dairy foods provide important nutrients. When choosing your two to three recommended servings of dairy, look for the low-fat or nonfat options. Skim milk; cheese with fewer than three grams of fat per ounce; and low-fat yogurt, frozen yogurt, sour cream, or cream cheese are good options.
Make the Change
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Make the necessary diet and lifestyle changes for lowering your cholesterol today. Adding healthy foods to your diet is just as important as eliminating harmful foods when it comes to the health of your heart.
Do you know what your cholesterol levels are? Adults should have a simple blood test every five years to check their cholesterol levels. If you have high cholesterol, you’re at risk for heart disease. Pay close attention to what you eat and do whatever it takes to get that number under control.