Low-Cholesterol Diet 

Your body needs cholesterol to build new cells and create certain hormones. There are 2 kinds of cholesterol in your blood:

  • HDL (“good”) cholesterol. This prevents fat deposits (plaque) from building up in your arteries. In this way, it protects against heart disease and stroke.

  • LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. This stays in your body and sticks to artery walls. Over time it may block blood flow to the heart and brain. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

The cholesterol in your blood comes from 2 sources: cholesterol in food that you eat and cholesterol that your liver makes. You should limit the amount of cholesterol in your diet. But the cholesterol that your body makes has the greatest disease risk. And your body makes more cholesterol when your diet is high in bad fats (saturated and trans fats). There are 2 kinds of fats you can eat:

  • Good fats, or unsaturated fats (mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated). They raise the level of good cholesterol and lower the level of bad cholesterol. Good fats are found in vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils, and in nuts and seeds.

  • Bad fats, or saturated fats (including foods high in cholesterol) and trans fats. These raise your risk of disease. They lower the good cholesterol and raise the level of bad cholesterol. Bad fats are found in animal products, including meat, whole-milk dairy products, and butter. Some plants are also high in bad fats (coconut and palm plants). Trans fats are found in hard (stick) margarines. They are also in many fast foods and commercially baked goods. Soft margarine sold in tubs has fewer trans fats and is safer to use.

High blood cholesterol is usually due to a diet high in saturated fat, along with not being physically active. In some cases, genetics plays a role in causing high cholesterol. The tips below will help you create healthy eating habits that will help lower your blood cholesterol level.

Create a diet high in good fats, low in bad fats (and low in cholesterol)

The following steps will help you create a diet high in good fats and low in bad fats:

  • Talk with your healthcare provider before starting a low cholesterol diet or weight loss program.

  • Learn to read nutrition labels and select appropriate portion sizes.

  • When cooking, use plant-based unsaturated vegetable oils (sunflower, corn, soybean, canola, peanut, and olive oils).

  • Limit saturated fats found in animal products such as meat, dairy (whole-milk, cheese and ice cream), poultry skin, and egg yolks. Plants high in saturated oils include coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil.

  • If you eat meat, choose smaller portions and lean cuts, such as round, chuck, sirloin, or loin. Eat more meatless meals.

  • Replace meat with fish at least 2 times a week. Fish is an important source of the unsaturated fat called omega-3 fatty acids. This fat has potential to lower the risk of heart disease.

  • Replace whole-milk dairy products with low-fat or nonfat products. Try soy products. Soy helps to reduce total cholesterol.

  • Supplement your diet with protective fibers. Eat nuts, seeds, and whole grains rather than white rice and bread. These foods lower both cholesterol and triglyceride levels. (Triglycerides are another fat found in the blood.) Walnuts are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables daily.

  • Limit fast foods and commercial baked goods. Assume they contain saturated fat unless labeled otherwise.

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