A low-fat, low-cholesterol diet used to be the primary nutrition strategy for preventing and treating coronary heart disease (CHD), the leading cause of death and disability for both men and women in the U.S. Today, we understand that a variety of conditions can lead to CHD, which basically means that a person with normal cholesterol levels can still be at risk.
Do you have elevated cholesterol?
Cholesterol is transported throughout the body to repair damage or injury. Individuals obtain cholesterol into their bodies in two ways:
- From natural liver production,
- From food.
Foods such as red meat, full-fat dairy, poultry skin and other animal products contain components that may increase cholesterol. Elevated cholesterol is considered to be a score of 240mg/dL, but health care practitioners are taking notice at a score of 200mg/dL or higher.
Do you have elevated LDL?
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or “bad cholesterol” is a lipoprotein that transports cholesterol and triglycerides from the liver to the peripheral tissues. It can slowly build up in the walls of the arteries that feed blood to the heart and brain. If too much plaque builds up, a block can form causing atherosclerosis. A high level of LDL cholesterol, 160 mg/dL or above, reflects an increased risk for heart disease.
How do I reduce my elevated LDL?
- Reduce saturated fat intake. Decrease intake of full fat dairy foods and red meat. Choose fish and skinless poultry breast. Tropical oils such as palm and coconut should be used sparingly.
- Eliminate hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats.
- Eat more nuts. At least one ounce of nuts a day has been shown to reduce LDL
cholesterol levels. Choose walnuts, almonds, pecans or any of your favorite, unsalted nuts.
- Increase fiber intake to 25-50 grams daily. Fiber, especially the soluble type, binds total cholesterol in the intestinal tract and promotes cholesterol excretion. Choose oats, flaxseed, beans, other whole grains, as well as fruits and vegetables.
- Eat garlic. The equivalent of one or two cloves of garlic a day has been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
- Optimize antioxidant levels. Antioxidants protect the blood lipids from oxidation.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Red wine in particular is associated with increasing HDL levels. Moderate drinking is defined as no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women. One drink is considered to be 12 fluid ounces of beer, five fluid ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
How do I reduce my triglyceride levels?
The American Heart Association defines triglycerides as the chemical form in which most fat exists. A normal level is considered <150mg/dL.
- Increase omega-3 fat intake. Include omega-3 rich fish (salmon, arctic char and sardines), omega-3 rich enriched eggs, ground flaxseed or flax oil, walnuts and pumpkin seeds on a daily basis.
- Choose low-glycemic index foods: whole grains versus white, refined sugar and flour.