Low Cholesterol Diet
A high blood cholesterol level can be a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Learn what foods to eat and what foods to avoid to lower your blood cholesterol level.
Understanding Cholesterol Levels
When your blood cholesterol level is checked, you get three numbers: total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein). Low-density lipoprotein is the bad cholesterol associated with the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of arteries) and heart attack. High-density lipoprotein is the good cholesterol that removes bad LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream.
It is important to maintain proper ratio between your total cholesterol and good HDL cholesterol. Divide your total cholesterol number by your HDL cholesterol number to find your cholesterol ratio. You should keep your cholesterol ration below 5:1. The ratio of 3.5:1 is considered ideal. That is the current recommendations are to keep the bad LDL cholesterol under 100 mg/dL and the good HDL cholesterol at 60 mg/dL.
How to Lower Cholesterol Level
- If you are overweight, begin a healthy eating and exercise program to lose weight.
- Avoid foots that are high in fats and especially in saturated fats. Substitute unsaturated fats for saturated fats. Unsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils, while saturated fats are found in meat products and dairy products. Note that vegetables oils that have been chemically changed to make them solid at room temperature are rich in saturated fats too and you should avoid them.
- Base your diet on foods that are good sources of complex carbohydrates such as starches (potatoes, corn) and soluble fiber (whole grain products, fruits and vegetables).
- Increase your physical activity level as physical activity helps lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL-cholesterol.
- Avoid high-cholesterol foods.
Saturated fats are responsible for raising your blood cholesterol levels. Reducing consumption of saturated fats provides a number of health benefits: it lowers high blood cholesterol levels, it helps you reduce your calorie intake (fat foods are always calorie-dense) and achieve long-term weight loss, and it helps you reduce the risk of cardiovascular deceases and colon cancer.
High Cholesterol Foods to Avoid
- Eggs, especially yolks
- Whole dairy products especially butter
- Meat and poultry, especially organ meat such as liver and kidney
While it is true that foods high in fat increase blood cholesterol levels, even low-fat foods can be high in cholesterol, for example, 3 oz (85 g) of braised beef liver contains 4.5 g of fat and of 337 mg of cholesterol, which is 112% of Cholesterol Daily Value. You should always read nutrition labels when shopping for food.
No Cholesterol Foods
- Grains and Cereals
- Nuts and Seeds
Cholesterol Lowering Foods
- Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring, halibut, and trout.
- Walnuts, almonds and other nuts
- Oatmeal and oat bran
Fatty fish is an important part of the cholesterol lowering diet regime as fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids reducing the risk of heart decease. If you do not like fish, you can add canola oil to your meal to get omega-3 fatty acids. The way you prepare your foods is very important. It’s best to steam, broil or grill foods. Avoid frying foods. The recommendation for fatty fish is at least two servings a week and for walnuts and almonds–about a handful (one ounce) a day.
A diet including cholesterol lowering foods can be as effective as some cholesterol lowering medicines. However, the cholesterol lowering diet may be not enough, and you may still need drugs prescribed by your health care provider to reduce the risk of heart decease.