lowering cholesterol is quite the challenge. not only do you have to avoid high “bad” cholesterol foods, prepare low cholesterol foods so you’ll want to eat it while still consuming “good” cholesterol, but also think about how food you eat is consumed. most people absorb about half of the cholesterol they consume through foods but absorption rates vary from 20 to 60 percent from person to person. dietary cholesterol seems to increase levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol in some people more than others. ( EatingWell 1 )
probably the hardest part to accept about having high cholesterol is that it is a never ending battle. if your doctor told you that you have high cholesterol at one check up and you manage to lower it at the next check up, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about high cholesterol anymore. just like eating healthy and exercising, you have to keep working on it … and working on it … and working on it. while my regular check ups has my cholesterol under control, it’s in my family. my goal is to keep working on it so i won’t ever need medication.
to help, there are some foods that help to lower cholesterol. so here are some things i’ve read about that may give hope to those of us who continuously work to balance our cholesterol to a healthy level.
foods that help to lower cholesterol
- they are high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and phytochemicals called lignans. flaxseed can help reduce total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels — and, as a result, may help reduce the risk of heart disease. flaxseed oil also contains omega-3 fatty acids, but it doesn’t have the beneficial fiber that the seeds have. ( MayoClinic 1 )
- you can purchase flaxseed in bulk – whole or ground – but your body digests them better if they are ground. you can easily grind them in your coffee grinder and then stored in an airtight container for months. refrigerating whole seeds may also extend their freshness. ( MayoClinic 1 )
- just add to your cereal or yogurt, blend with your sauces, bake into cookies, muffins or breads.
eat oatmeal for fiber
- oatmeal and oat bran are full of soluble fiber, which is known to lower LDL levels. when you digest fiber, it sticks to cholesterol and stops it from being absorbed into your system. adults should have at least 25 grams of fiber a day. most americans only get 15 grams of dietary fiber a day. ( WebMD 2 )
- enjoy some for breakfast – warm or cold, sprinkle in your cooking, bake or add on yogurt.
have fish 2 times per week
- “fatty fish” such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and trout are full of omega-3 fatty acids – good fats. they are shown to lower triglycerides, a type of fat in the bloodstream. ( WebMD 3 )
- it is best to broil, grill or steam fish. any health benefits are canceled out if you deep-fry them. it is recommended by the american dietetic association to eat two servings of fish a week. since they are fatty fish, they are high in calories so don’t overeat! ( WebMD 3 )
- and don’t forget: due to overfishing, we must be mindful of which fish are safer to eat so check sites that give a list of sustainable seafood, such as seafood watch.
a handful of nuts ( WebMD 4 )
- nuts have lots of protein, fiber, healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. studies show they have cholesterol-lowering effects. nuts including: peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts.
- just a handful a day gives health benefits – about 1 to 1.5 ounces is plenty! don’t overdo cuz they are high in calories … and also make sure to get them raw and unsalted.
slice, dollop and mash some avocado
- good for monounsaturated fats ( EatingWell 2 )
- good on salads (like grilled tuna roll and grilled lobster and avocado salad), dollop on soups (like tortilla soup), and needs no introduction: guacamole. kill two birds with one stone by having them with flaxseed tortilla chips. but remember … moderation!
not so blue blueberries
- already good for you, they can also contain cholesterol and fat-fighting compounds. ( WebMD 9 )
- enjoy on their own, top on ice cream, layer in a trifle or grill it.
soy products … maybe? ( WebMD 6 )
- although not proven, some studies show soy products can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides without lowering “good” HDL cholesterol.
- even if it doesn’t help lower cholesterol, it is a good protein to substitute for high-fat meats. so have some tofu, soy nuts, soymilk, edamame, miso and other soy products!
add plant sterols ( WebMD 5 )
- plant sterols and stanols are substances that occur naturally in small amounts in many grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds. since they have cholesterol-lowering properties, manufacturers have started adding them to foods. you can find them in margarine spreads, orange juice, cereals and even granola bars.
- american heart association doesn’t recommend sterol and stanol-fortified foods for everyone. it suggests that only people who need to lower their cholesterol or who have had a heart attack should use them.
good oils to cook with
olive oil: highest in healthful monounsaturated fats and a few healthy omega-3 fatty acids but can’t use it for high-temperature frying and may leave an olive flavor when baking with it. ( WebMD 8 )
canola oil: lowest in saturated fat and has a good amount of monounsaturated fat as well as omega-3. good to use for high-temperature frying and baking. ( WebMD 8 )
margarine with no trans-fat: good substitute for butter when you can but use margarine that is fairly low in saturated fat and fairly high in monounsaturated fat. ( WebMD 8 )
not all margarines are created equal. some can be processed with hydrogenation, which results in unhealthy trans fats. the more solid the margarine, the more trans fats it contains — therefore margarines in a tub has less trans fat than margarines from a stick. choose margarine with lowest trans fat possible and less than 2 grams total of saturated plus trans fats. also margarines fortified with plant sterols can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels by more than 10%. ( MayoClinic 2 )
if you just can’t give up butter completely, consider using whipped butter or light or reduced-calorie butter. there are also spreadable butters with vegetable oils added. ( MayoClinic 2 )
information from WebMD
- The New Low-Cholesterol Diet
- The New Low-Cholesterol Diet: Oatmeal & Oat Bran – What’s magic about oats? A lot. by R. Morgan Griffin
- The New Low-Cholesterol Diet: Fatty Fish – The right fish can do wonders for your heart. by R. Morgan Griffin
- The New Low-Cholesterol Diet: Nuts – Nuts aren’t just for holidays anymore. Key nuts can help you lower cholesterol. Add nuts to your low-cholesterol diet. by R. Morgan Griffin
- The New Low-Cholesterol Diet: Plant Sterols and Stanols – What are sterols and stanols, and does anyone like to eat them? by R. Morgan Griffin
- The New Low-Cholesterol Diet: Soy – Versatile soy protein may lower bad fats floating in your bloodstream. by R. Morgan Griffin
- The New Low-Cholesterol Diet: Cholesterol Glossary
- Dietary fiber – The parts of plants that your body can’t digest. If eaten regularly, fiber such as oats, pectin, and psyllium reduces serum and LDL cholesterol.
- HDL Cholesterol – The “good” cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol helps your body remove “bad” cholesterol from your arteries.
- LDL Cholesterol – The “bad” cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol tends to be deposited in artery walls.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – A good-for-you polyunsaturated fat found in some fish and vegetables (salmon, flax seed, soybean, English walnuts, and canola oil).
- Plant sterols – Found in plant foods, isolated from soybean and tall pine tree oils, they lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.
- Rating the Cooking Fats – Choosing the healthiest (and tastiest) oils, spreads and shortenings by Elaine Magee
- Blueberries May Lower Blood Fat/Cholesterol – Tasty Berries Carry Fat-Fighting Compound by Daniel J. DeNoon
information from MayoClinic.com
- Does ground flaxseed have more health benefits than whole flaxseed? by Katherine Zeratsky
- Which is better for my heart – butter or margarine by Martha Grogan, M.D.
information from American Heart Association
- Cooking for lower cholesterol
- Low-Fat Low-Cholesterol Cookbook (cookbook)
information from EatingWell.com
- How much does the cholesterol I get through food really affect my blood cholesterol level?
- 7 Super Foods to Improve Cholesterol by Peter Jaret
information from Medline Plus: A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health