Understanding Cholesterol

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Question: I have high cholesterol. Could you provide me with a short list of foods that I should eat?

Answer: Cholesterol is found in animal foods like beef, chicken, eggs, butter and whole milk. But that doesn’t mean someone with high cholesterol should avoid all animal products— it’s all about moderation.

The recommended guidelines suggest a maximum of 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day (which is about the amount found in one whole egg). Studies show that it’s not really the cholesterol found in food that raises blood cholesterol levels, but really the saturated and trans fat. Saturated fat is mostly found in animal foods like the skin of the chicken, whole milk, cheese, butter and beef. It’s also found in coconut, palm and palm kernel oil. Trans fat is found in many margarines and processed snack foods and are now listed on the nutrition labels—so read them carefully.

Cholesterol-Fighting Foods
Studies show that several foods help lower blood-cholesterol levels. Here are the top 5:

  1. Oatmeal: The fiber found in rolled oats has been shown to help lower cholesterol. Make sure cook up a fresh batch of oatmeal from rolled oats as opposed to the sugar-laden packages. Tons of added sugar has been shown to increase triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood that has been linked with heart disease in high amounts).
  2. Flax: Studies show that adding ground flaxseeds to your diet helps lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol. Keep a container next to the stove and sprinkle on your morning cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, smoothie or pancakes.
  3. Olive Oil: Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats which have been shown to help lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol. Other monounsaturated oils include peanut and canola. Be aware with 120 calories per tablespoon (Yes, tablespoon!) you want to measure out portions.
  4. Tuna & Salmon: Fatty fish like tuna and salmon contain omega-3 fats that have been shown to help lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol and raise the good (HDL) cholesterol.
  5. Plant Sterols: Sterols have been shown to help block cholesterol absorption and keep the bad (LDL) cholesterol at bay. Fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds naturally contain small amounts of plant sterols. In addition, many food manufacturers have added plant sterols to their products including buttery spreads like Smart Balance, yogurts, granola and cereals. Aim for 2 grams per day.

Want some heart-healthy recipes to cook up? Check out these 25.

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