By Ann Lindemann, Senior Health Writer
Are your cholesterol numbers not where you’d like them to be? To be honest, genes determine how much cholesterol your body produces, but wise diet choices can give those worrisome numbers a nudge in the right direction. These easy to follow tips can help you lower your cholesterol for better heart health.
- Fabulous Fiber – Fiber is an easy and tasty dietary fix. Research suggests that boosting one’s soluble fiber intake by 5 to 10 grams daily may result in a 5% drop in LDL cholesterol. Try to slip some healthy fiber into every meal: oatmeal or high fiber cereal to start the day, sprinkle a 1/2 cup of beans on your lunchtime salad and eat a fiber-rich veggie like broccoli with dinner. Toss in a couple pieces of fruit for snacks and you’ll easily meet your target range, which varies individually.
- Eggs? Yes, in moderation! – Happily, eggs have been taken off the cholesterol blacklist. Nutritionally, eggs have many redeeming qualities… one just needs to plan for the cholesterol hit that they offer. Say your recommended daily cholesterol limit is 300 milligrams and one egg offers about 213 milligrams of cholesterol; you can still have that egg but you’ll want to limit the cholesterol you get from other sources during the day. This might be a good day to have your favorite meatless entrée for dinner.
- Ditch the Double Cholesterol Whammy – Sure, you know that dietary cholesterol can elevate blood cholesterol levels, but there’s something that may have an even worse effect: saturated fat. What’s more, the two are often found in the same foods, including meat, butter and full-fat dairy. So, limit your intake of foods rich in saturated fats and your heart will thank you.
- Go Fish – Time to do a mealtime switcheroo. Twice a week, try substituting a fatty fish – like salmon or tuna – for higher fat meat like beef. These fish in particular are rich in omega-3s, a type of polyunsaturated fat. This type of fat may actually help lower your blood cholesterol level when substituted for saturated and trans fats in your diet.
- Know Your Fats – Here’s a way to ID foods that are low in cholesterol, saturated fats and trans fats: opt for fats and oils (e.g. canola and olive oils) with 2 grams or less saturated fat per tablespoon.
- Get Spicy – Don’t lean on butter, sour cream, and other fatty additives for flavoring. Instead, reach for the spices – either while cooking or at the table. Liven up your dishes with oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, coriander, or cumin.
- High Blood Sugar & Cholesterol – High glycemic index carbohydrates, such as sweets and white bread, can lead to high blood sugar. High blood sugar is a major risk factor for high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. How exactly carbohydrates affect cholesterol is still a matter of controversy. A contributing factor may be the low fiber content of diets high in fast carbohydrates.