Nutrition for High Cholesterol

cholesterol in Heart Health ResourcesAt NYCC we see the power of healthy diet and lifestyle in improving and preventing chronic disease.  Our doctors and dietitian work closely with patients to help them make realistic changes in their diet and activity patterns.  Here are some tips to control elevated blood cholesterol.

Please note:  While these suggestions are generally safe, keep in mind that everyone’s health situation is unique.   Always consult with your primary care physician before making changes to current dietary intake and/or lifestyle.


Heart Healthy Diet and Lifestyle to Control Blood Cholesterol

blocked coronary cholesterol1High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.  When there's too much of unhealthy fats in your blood, fatty deposits collect on your arteries. Over time, this causes the arteries to become narrowed and blood flow to the heart can be blocked, leading to heart damage and/or heart attacks.  While making dietary changes can improve your blood cholesterol, it is important to keep taking your cholesterol medication as prescribed.

 


If you want to lower your blood cholesterol or maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels follow these five basic recommendations:

  1. Healthy Weight:  Maintain a healthy weight or if you are overweight, work on reducing your weight.
  2. Regular Activity: Aim to do at least 30 min. of activity most days.
  3. Reduce Unhealthy Fats, Increase Healthy Fats:  Replace saturated fats (primarily found in animal products such as meat and dairy) with unsaturated fats (fatty fish such as salmon and plant-based fats such as olive oil, vegetable oil, avacado). Avoid trans fats entirely.
  4. Limit Sugar & Processed Grains:  Avoid refined grains & sugar while increasing healthy fats. 
  5. Increase Dietary Fiber: Choose foods high in fiber, especially those high in soluble fiber (including oatmeal, barley, fruits, and beans).

cholesterol collection of photo arrangement

 


Here are some tips to get started on your cholesterol-lowering diet:

  • Read food labels. These list the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and fiber in one serving of the food. The “% Daily Value”, listed to the right of the label, is the percentage of the recommended daily intake in one serving of a given food. When comparing labels:
    • Choose the foods lowest in saturated fat & cholesterol. Try to choose products that have less than 5-10% of the Daily Value for saturated fats & cholesterol. These raise LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels in the blood.
      • Saturated fats and cholesterol are found in the fat of animal products such as meat, cream, butter, and chicken skin as well as most margarines and shortening (though these usually have less saturated fat than butter).
    • Try to get less than 7% of your daily calories (depending on how many calories you need this means no more than 9-16 grams) from saturated fat.
    • Completely avoid products that contain trans fat. This is an artificial fat, so if you see trans fat on the label, choose another product without added trans fat.  If a product contains "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil", it contains trans fat.
    • Consume no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day if you have heart health risk factors or diabetes.
  • Get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. These fats, found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel, are beneficial for the heart & help to lower blood triglycerides. Eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week.  Additionally, you can take a fish oil supplement, but consult your doctor before taking a supplement.  Persons on blood thinners should not take an omega-3 supplement.

  • Get plenty of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps to reduce unhealthy LDL cholesterol.  To get enough soluble fiber to improve cholesterol, you will need to deliberately choose foods high in soluble fiber including fruits: plums, prunes, oranges, grapefruits, pears, strawberries, & apples; grains: oatmeal, oat bran, barley, and cereals with added soluble fiber such as Cheerios; vegetables: broccoli, carrots, & Brussels sprouts; and beans: all beans including chickpeas, lima beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans. Psyllium seeds or a commercial soluble fiber supplement (such as Konesyl, Metamucil, Fiberall) can also boost your soluble fiber intake.

  • Consider including foods containing phytosterols. Phytosterols are plant compounds that help to lower cholesterol. They are found naturally in vegetable oils, olive oil, nuts, beans, and seeds. In order to consume enough phytosterols to lower cholesterol, approximately 2-3g, consider taking sterol supplements and/or sterol fortified products such as Benecol margarine. Be mindful that fortified products such as margarine are high in calories, so choose these as substitutions for other similar foods, not in addition to your usual diet.

cholesterol table3

At NYCC we see the power of healthy diet and lifestyle in improving and preventing chronic disease.  Our doctors and dietitian work closely with patients to help them make realistic changes in their diet and activity patterns.  Here are some tips to control elevated blood cholesterol.

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