Low Cholesterol Diet
Avoiding dietary cholesterol does not have the health benefits that one might expect. Instead, lowering your cholesterol requires a combination of diet and lifestyle changes. Eating the right types of fat, getting adequate fiber, and exercising regularly will do wonders in improving your cholesterol levels.
Eat The Right Type of Fat
All fat is not created equal.
For most of the 20th century, a general low-fat diet was recommended for heart health and weight management. We now know that fat is an essential part of a healthy diet and plays a significant role in many bodily functions including, the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, production of hormones, supporting cell growth, and providing energy for the body.
Fat can be categorized into three general types: unsaturated, saturated, and trans fat. Unsaturated fats are healthy fats and are encouraged on a low cholesterol diet. These fats can be found in vegetable oils, olive oil, nuts, nut butters, seeds, fish, and seafood. Saturated fats are found in animal products [beef, turkey, pork, or chicken], dairy products [butter, full-fat yogurt, milk, and cheese], and coconut oil. Limited saturated fat to less than 10% of daily calories, but unsaturated fats should make up 20-30% of calories consumed every day. Trans fat should be avoided if possible. These type of fats are found in trace amounts in beef and dairy, but more commonly consumed as man-made partially hydrogenated oils. Once added to packaged foods to extend shelf life, they are no longer recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. This means they can be more easily avoided, but to reduce cholesterol l fewer servings of red meat and processed foods.
To lower cholesterol, it is important to eat more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, limit saturated fats, and avoid trans fats completely. A diet rich in seafood, nuts, seeds, and olive oil will help to lower cholesterol and make your heart happy.
Increase Your Fiber Intake
Adequate fiber intake can help lower cholesterol.
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women should consume 21-25 grams and men 30-38 grams of fiber daily to reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer, and to lower blood cholesterol. There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is responsible for adding bulk to bowel movements, reducing bouts of constipation and diarrhea. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like consistency in the digestive tract. This type of fiber reduces cholesterol by aiding in the excretion of dietary cholesterol and decreasing the amount of cholesterol produced by the body. Both types of fiber are important, but focus on soluble fiber for the cholesterol-lowering benefits. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, oats, and barley [soluble fiber sources] along with whole grains, bran, nuts, and seeds will ensure adequate intake and the health benefits of fiber.
Move More and Exercise Daily
Sedentary lifestyles increase cardiovascular risk.
You have probably heard that exercise is good for your heart, but did you know that exercise has also been shown to improve cholesterol specifically? Studies have shown that exercise decreases LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol). The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderately-intense exercise per week. A brisk 20-minute walk or bike ride each day is all it takes to improve your cardiac health.
Exercise goals can seem daunting at first, especially if you haven't exercised in a while or if you have a job where you sit at a computer all day. With this in mind, any time spent up from your desk and moving around is step in the right directions. Plan to stand up from your desk and walk around for a few minutes each hour. Set a timer to remind yourself to get up and get moving.
Start with small attainable goals if exercise is new to you. Even a 5-minute walk after work, is 5 minutes of heart healthy movement. Gradually increase the time and the intensity of your activity as your fitness level improves.
Find an activity that is right for you. Although exercise may be challenging at first, you want to choose an activity that you look forward to doing. Experiment with different exercises, like walking, biking, swimming, hiking, etc., until you find something you enjoy. Invite friends and loved ones to join you and make it a social event. The goal is to choose activities that you can maintain long-term.