Chances are, you’ve heard a thing or two about cholesterol. Having high blood cholesterol is a risk factor for developing heart disease.
But did you know that you can reduce your cholesterol level by making smart food choices? It’s true!
Before we get to the details, let’s be clear on what we’re talking about. For years, cholesterol has had a bad rep that it doesn’t really deserve. The truth is, we need cholesterol to function. Your body makes most of the cholesterol it needs. The rest comes from foods you eat.
Here’s the important thing: Dietary cholesterol – found in meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products – has less impact on increasing your blood cholesterol level. Foods that contain lots of saturated fat are the true culprits.
Now here’s how to make nutritious choices to lower your blood cholesterol.
Keep eating simple
In the last 20 years, the rules on healthy eating have shifted. Super restrictive diets aren’t sustainable or the healthiest choice. Rather than zeroing in on a single nutrient, nutrition research shows the quality of your diet matters more. A diet filled with the right portions of whole, unprocessed foods can help decrease heart disease and stroke. What does that look like? For a healthy, balanced eating plan:
- Get in the habit of filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit. Fresh, frozen or canned – it’s up to you. When buying canned produce look for packed in water and lower sodium or sodium free options.
- Choose whole grains. Look for whole grain breads, barley, oats (including oatmeal) quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, farro etc.
- Add more vegetarian options like beans, lentils, tofu and nuts to your weekly meal plans. And opt for lean cuts of meat, poultry and fish.
- Choose lower-fat dairy products with no added sugar. Pick 1% or skim milk, plain yogurt and lower fat cheeses.
- As a rule of thumb, steer clear of highly processed foods, even if they are lower in fat content. Low-fat or diet foods are often loaded with calories, sodium and added sugar.
- Read Nutrition Facts panels and avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated fat or vegetable shortening.
Cook at home
Home-cooking is usually more nutritious and wallet-friendly than eating out. By choosing your ingredients, you’re in control of the flavour and can avoid excess sugar, salt and fat. Need a break from the kitchen? Choose restaurants that serve freshly made dishes, use natural, minimally-processed ingredients and provide nutrition information, for healthy, informed choices.
Choose more fibre
Studies show eating fibre, especially the soluble type that’s found in foods such as oats, barley, oranges and eggplant, can help lower unhealthy cholesterol levels. However, to obtain those heart-healthy benefits, adults would need to consume between 21 to 38 g every day. Most of us get about half that amount. The good news is there are easy – and tasty – ways to fix that.
The next time you’re feeling hungry, snack on fruit – with the skin on – for a sweet treat. And ditch the juice; you won’t find fibre there. Veggies are another awesome source of fibre, among other good things, and low calorie to boot. You can get creative by sneaking kale, spinach or arugula into your next meal.
Each of these options will provide you with two grams:
- ½ ripe avocado
- ¼ cup dried figs
- 1 large orange
- ½ cup sweet potato
- ¾ cup broccoli
- ¾ cup oat bran
- ¼ cup bran buds
- ¾ cup chickpeas
- 2 tbsp flax seeds
- 3/4 cup eggplant
Filling up on fibre isn’t always easy. If you’re still not getting enough fibre through food, a supplement like psyllium fibre can help make up what you’re missing.
- Learn more about fats and oils.
- Browse our heart healthy recipes.
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