Before we can even get into low cholesterol diet plans and foods for lowering cholesterol, it’s important that you understand the basics of the role cholesterol plays in your health and wellness. Your body uses it in the creation of cell membranes – without these membranes, you literally wouldn’t be able to exist as a human being, so cholesterol is not all bad! In addition cholesterol plays a role in producing sex hormones (testosterone, progesterone and estrogens) and metabolizing important vitamins.
That’s why you can see incredibly “ripped” bodybuilders who still have 5-6% body fat levels.
One thing you need to be aware of before you even get started with a low cholesterol diet plan is that there are actually two different types of cholesterol. HDL serves the function of carrying excess fats from bodily tissues like muscles to the liver (cholesterol doesn’t dissolve in the blood and has to be metabolized by the liver). And LDL is often nicknamed “bad cholesterol” and is probably the stuff your doctor may have warned you about.
LDL does serve an important function in the body, carrying fats from the liver to cells, among other things. However, and here is the potential problem, only a small amount of LDL is required for this basic function. This is the type that builds up in arteries and can lead to the formation of blockages – this condition is known as atherosclerosis.
No, it’s about finding out which foods contain each type of cholesterol (or encourage cholesterol production in the body itself) and focusing on avoiding too much of the so-called bad cholesterol foods and eating more of the good cholesterol foods. A low cholesterol diet plan should aim at lowering bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol. These days many people don’t even bother to look at the nutritional information on food packaging. While eating a lot of saturated fat is definitely a cause of storing more body fat, there’s a difference between dietary fat that you eat and fat stored in your body. This obsession with saturated fat has led many people to not even notice “trans fats” on food packaging.
Usually trans fats are only in foods in very tiny quantities, and it is therefore only very natural to assume that such small quantities of anything can’t be harmful. Trans fats have the effect of actually making the body produce more bad cholesterol from within.
So just because a food claims to be low in cholesterol, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for you – if it contains trans fats it could crank up bad cholesterol production from within.
Many people attempt to cut down on saturated fat consumption by switching out butter for margarine. So all the labels on margarine that claim it has lower fat than butter might be right but are at the same time really quite misleading. So if you want to engage in a low cholesterol diet plan, you’re best to avoid traditional butter and margarine altogether and try to find a light alternative.
Because awareness of trans fats is spreading there are now many trans-fat-free margarine products on the market. Some margarine products are created specifically with high cholesterol sufferers in mind and contain ingredients that block cholesterol absorption. What many people don’t realize is that the majority of cholesterol in your blood was actually created inside your body.
High levels of bad cholesterol in the blood stream lead to a build-up of fatty deposits along artery walls. A myocardial infarction is the medical term for what we most commonly call a “heart attack.” Heart attacks typically happen when one of these plaques ruptures and restricts blood flow (and thus oxygen supply) to the heart. So by this point you’re well aware of the dangers surrounding bad cholesterol – now what can you do about it? The first step in creating your low cholesterol diet plan is identifying the usual suspects and eliminating them from your diet – the foods you eat regularly which are high in saturated fat and bad cholesterol. You might find this hard to do at first though, which is why it you may find it easier to start from the other side: create a complete low fat low cholesterol diet plan that covers every day of the week.
Many people with cholesterol problems tend to eat a lot of fatty red meats like steak and beef (if you’re a hamburger lover, this is probably you). Chicken and turkey are great – they’re delicious and filling, and they go well in sandwiches, salads and a variety of dinner meals. You should also look at switching from a high intake of red meat to eating more fish – we’ll discuss the power of fish in reducing cholesterol in the Cholesterol Lowering Foods section further down. Eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables will help ensure your body gets all the vitamins and nutrients it needs without having to take in large amounts of bad cholesterol. Fruits and vegetables also have the advantage of being relatively low in calories for how “filling” they are, so you can eat a lot of them without storing energy as body fat.
You might initially complain that low fat foods just don’t taste as good, but the reality is if you stick with it for a few weeks your taste buds will adapt. If you keep eating low fat foods for a few months and then you try the old full-fat equivalent, you’ll be amazed at the difference in the way you perceive the taste. Some of the people who develop cholesterol problems are used to eating substantial amounts of fried foods. Think about how you can change your cooking habits to use methods which don’t rely on high cholesterol oils, like boiling. When you do fry something, use oils that are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats rather than saturated fats.
Good cooking oils to include in your low cholesterol diet plan are options like olive oil and macadamia oil. So far we’ve looked at a low cholesterol diet plan that won’t raise your cholesterol levels, but what if you want to actively lower your current levels to reduce your existing risk of heart problems? By the way, don’t be scared off course by the common myth that any diet requires you to eat less.
Note – none of these foods has been conclusively proven to be as effective as medication for reducing cholesterol, but there’s enough evidence to indicate they do have a positive effect. Below you will find a list of foods that in many cases are also cholesterol lowering foods that are healthy choices to include in your low cholesterol diet plan. Many types of fish are excellent sources of omega 3, a nutrient which large numbers of people are lacking in modern diets. In terms of actual fish as opposed to fish oil supplements, salmon is an excellent source of omega 3 as are some types of tuna. As I already mentioned, soluble fiber reduces bad cholesterol – and foods like oatmeal are packed with soluble fiber, making them important as part of a low cholesterol diet plan. Oatmeal and high fiber cereals, as well as many fruits and vegetables which are high in fiber, are ideal as a core part of your diet plan to lower cholesterol levels. When it comes to nuts you want to be eating them in a raw, natural form – nuts that have been glazed, roasted, salted or altered some other way are not nearly as good. Also, don’t view these as being a free pass to scoff down high bags of peanuts – nuts are energy-dense, which means each one contains a large number of calories. If you eat too many you may end up with an excessive calorie intake which leads to gaining body fat. One thing you can do to have an immediate impact on your heart attack risk is to quite smoking. Smoking raises your levels of bad cholesterol while simultaneously lowering your good cholesterol – in other words, it’s a two-pronged attack on your heart health.
There’s still some speculation in the medical community about this, but many studies have showed a correlation between moderate intake of alcohol and a lower risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
On the flipside these studies tend to show excessive alcohol consumption correlates to a greater risk. While it’s still unclear whether you can directly reduce bad cholesterol through exercise, you can definitely increase good cholesterol as a direct result of exercise – and that amounts to the same thing. So it’s important not to overlook the role of physical activity as a complement to a low cholesterol diet plan.
Even if you put an excellent low cholesterol diet plan in place, without a good aerobic exercise regime to go with it you probably won’t get optimal results. At the beginning, the learning curve can seem daunting – there’s so much to take on board. You need to make a personal commitment to yourself right now to continue expanding your own nutritional education in the future so you can keep developing your low cholesterol diet plan. This is not only for the sake of lowering cholesterol, but to ensure your body is in prime physical condition so you’re not at risk of a wide variety of health problems and above and beyond heart disease itself. Now you know some good foods to include in a low cholesterol diet plan, but there’s a difference between knowing a few foods and being able to combine those foods into nutritious and delicious meals. You can stuff the inside with boiled vegetables and top it off with a low fat sauce after it’s cooked to add some flavor.
Simple enough to make, this meal gives you a good helping of protein while still being low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Vegetables can be anything of your choice – carrots, corn, broccoli, capsicum, whatever you prefer. You can roast a whole chicken or simply dice up a breast and fry it in a healthy oil such as macadamia nut oil which is high in monounsaturated fat.
Ideal if you have leftovers from the roast chicken meal above (which can also be done with turkey). Save whatever meat is left over and use it for a salad consisting of fresh lettuce, cucumber, tomato, boiled egg (you can use just the whites – all the cholesterol is contained in the yolk, whereas the whites are high in protein), and even some nuts such as cashews or walnuts. It may sound a little bland at first but with the right low fat sauce your can turn this into a very interesting dish.
Add some low fat cheese into the equation and you can create some incredibly tasty dishes without the big cholesterol binge. Apart from these meal ideas and other you find or come up with on your own, remember that snacking is not excluded from your low cholesterol diet plan. Eat healthy foods frequently throughout the day – if you allow yourself to get too hungry your body will start craving calorie-dense foods and that often leads to binging on foods that are bad for your cholesterol levels. There’s an interesting link between niacin and cholesterol which can help you reduce your levels of bad cholesterol. In fact, one study found that when niacin supplements were given to patients who already had healthy cholesterol levels it led to an increase in stroke risk.
Niacin is a B vitamin (vitamin B3) which helps unclog the build up of bad cholesterol while stimulating the production of more good cholesterol, HDL. Basically, in terms of its effects on cholesterol, it prohibits the secretion of bad cholesterol by the liver. Most people get their niacin intake from meat and dairy, so if you’ve started restricting these food sources as part of a low cholesterol diet plan you may not be getting enough niacin right now. I’ve already mentioned you should try to steer clear of saturated fats and replace them with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats where possible. At the most basic level, the chemical structure of saturated fats is different from that of unsaturated fats.
To give you an idea of sources of these different fat types, saturated fats usually come from meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy. Again, the difference is in the chemical structure of the molecules, but in these cases both types have similarly positive effects on your cholesterol levels.
Polyunsaturated fats are found on foods like fish whereas monounsaturated fats are in foods like nuts and olive oil. Again, remember to watch out for “hidden” trans fats which are technically unsaturated fats and may be listed as such on food packaging. You can do this with your doctor when you have your cholesterol levels tested – discuss what a realistic reduction target could be based on where you are now. This allows you to keep track of whether your low cholesterol diet plan is working as well as you’d like it to.
If you set a goal and you find on your next cholesterol level test that you haven’t hit your mark, you can then make further changes to your low cholesterol diet plan and physical exercise regime. Meat is generally rich in the undesirable highly saturated fats, which has serious health risks associated with it and must be avoided to control your cholesterol count.
The types of fish listed above are rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA), two omega-3 fatty acids, which is proved to prevent against hypercholesterolemia,atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
As a general rule of low cholesterol diet plans, your diet regime should include plenty fresh fruits and vegetables for three primary reasons. A diet plan rich in fruits and vegetables is strongly recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) and the American Cancer Society along with regular physical exercise as a solution to prevent the risk of coronary and artery disease. Sample Low Cholesterol Diet Plan By Alice CusslerAre you struggling to reduce your cholesterol levels? Cholesterol isn’t some sort of poison or toxin – it actually has an important role in how your body functions. Like much else in life, it’s all a question of balance (a subject I will return to later in this article). There is plenty of evidence indicating that low HDL levels increase the risk of heart attack, and increasing HDL levels may even lower heart attack risks for those who already have high bad cholesterol levels. This is an extremely serious issue which may when left untreated lead to stroke and cardiac arrest. For instance, we have it drilled into us to watch out for dietary fat, especially saturated fats.
Fat stored in your body doesn’t have to come from fat itself – it can be a store of energy from carbohydrates, for example. But the problem here is that many margarine products involve the hydrogenation process, which means margarine is high in trans fats. However, it’s when you eat excessive amounts of bad cholesterol that these statistics start to fall out of balance and you end up with health problems and a higher risk of heart disease and heart attacks. These fatty deposits are called plaques, and as they build up they narrow the artery, restricting blood flow.
You need to cut the foods that are contributing to high levels of bad cholesterol and focus on eating more foods containing good cholesterol. Often the reason people struggle to get onto a low cholesterol diet plan is because they assume they’ll be losing something in terms of taste satisfaction.
But you can get all the nutrients you need from other foods without having to eat high cholesterol foods. Apples and pears also contain soluble fiber, which reduces bad cholesterol levels and are therefore great in your low cholesterol diet plan. If you fry your salmon in oils high in saturated fats you’ll simply end up cancelling out many of the benefits.
If you’ve already given up smoking, you might be stressing out over the prospect of having to give up drinking as well. Try not to be overwhelmed – just take in each piece of information at a time and implement what you learn in small chunks. You really only need half a dozen meal ideas to get you going which you can chop and change between – then you can experiment as you become more educated on what foods hurt and help you. Simply take a large potato (or a few if you want a big meal) and cut a cross-split into the top. Again, this is the case in people who have high bad cholesterol levels – if your bad cholesterol is already being controlled through diet and medication, niacin supplements may have adverse effects. This chemical structure is the difference that means saturated fats may lead to clogged arteries while unsaturated fats do not. However unless your turn vegetarian, it is nearly impossible to eliminate meat entirely from your eating habits as it is a vital protein source.
This will help you make the right choices when you are shopping for healthy cholesterol lowering foods and also when preparing your everyday meals. In the worst case scenario a plaque will block the artery entirely so that no blood can pass through. Consider using fat free cooking methods, or use oils with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. A low cholesterol diet plan works by lowering the quantity of saturated fat to reduce LDL cholesterol as well as using more monounsaturated fats and also soluble fiber to increase HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol.1Cholesterol can be found only in foods from animals, and not in plant foods.
And finally, since fruits and vegetables in general contain fewer calories than the other foods, they are the ideal cholesterol lowering foods. This way you can stay focused on consistently following your low cholesterol diet and maintaining your heart in top condition. Reduce the amount of meat in your meals and increase the amount of whole grains and vegetables to compensate if needed.
Use low-fat cottage cheese and other low-fat cheeses.4Increasing consumption of soluble fiber found in whole grains helps to lower cholesterol. Good sources of dietary soluble fiber include oatmeal and oat bran, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, pears and apples. Use brown rice instead of white rice and use whole grain pasta.5Trans fat acts like saturated fat raising the level of LDL cholesterol. Examples of foods loaded with trans fat are doughnuts, French fries, cookies, muffins, crackers, pies and cakes. Cholesterol Lowering Statin Drugs Infographic6Reduce amount of eggs consumed, or use egg whites instead of yolks. The cholesterol from eggs is all found in the yolks, egg whites are an excellent source of protein.7Monounsaturated fats are fats which help reduce cholesterol levels.
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