Best Diet for High Cholesterol: What to Know
High cholesterol can be a risk factor for a host of medical problems, so having a healthy diet is essential. But a diet that works for someone with higher cholesterol levels may not be the same as a regular diet.
In this article, we will discuss the best diet for high cholesterol and what kinds of foods to include and avoid. We will also provide tips for making dietary changes and how to keep cholesterol levels within a healthy range.
1. What Is High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol is a dangerous condition that affects millions of people. It is a type of fat that accumulates in the walls of your arteries, creating a substance called plaque. This can have a negative impact on your cardiovascular health and can even lead to a heart attack or stroke, so it’s very important to understand what it is and how to prevent it.
What Causes High Cholesterol?
There are a few factors that can lead to high cholesterol. It is closely related to diet, as foods high in saturated fats, cholesterol, and some man-made trans fat can raise your cholesterol levels.
Some other lifestyle factors, like not exercising or smoking, can also cause high cholesterol.
Additionally, some people are genetically predisposed to having high cholesterol, and it can be especially common in people with diabetes.
How Is High Cholesterol Diagnosed?
High cholesterol can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. A doctor will use the test results to determine your levels of cholesterol, and if they are high, they will prescribe a treatment plan. Treatment could include lifestyle changes, as well as medication.
How Can You Lower Your Cholesterol?
There are a few steps you can take to lower your cholesterol:
- Eat foods low in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats
- Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods, such as oats, quinoa, and fruits and vegetables
- Engage in regular physical activity
- Don’t smoke
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Monitor and adjust your diet as needed
If lifestyle changes are not enough to lower your cholesterol, your doctor may also prescribe medication. Either way, it is important to understand and treat high cholesterol to stay healthy.
2. What Are the Best Diets for High Cholesterol?
If you have high cholesterol, one of the most important things you can do is follow a healthy eating plan. Depending on your medical needs, your physician may recommend a specific diet plan. Here are some of the best dietary options for managing high cholesterol:
1. Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is an evidence-based diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts. You should also enjoy healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocados, in moderation. Taking this diet to heart means you’ll get plenty of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, to help lower your cholesterol.
2. Low-fat diet. If your doctor recommends a low-fat diet, that means eating foods that are low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Focus on lean proteins, like fish and skinless poultry, and choose low-fat dairy options, like skim milk. Incorporate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to get fiber and other important nutrients.
3. Plant-based diet. A plant-based diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. It eliminates animal products, like meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. Research has revealed that this style of eating may help reduce cholesterol levels.
4. Portfolio diet. The portfolio diet, which was popularized by Dr. David Jenkins, is a cholesterol-lowering diet that focuses on combining various nutrients into one meal plan. The theory behind this diet is that it’s not enough to reduce your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. You also need to make sure you include foods that actively lower cholesterol. The diet focuses on foods like nuts, plant sterols, soy protein, and soluble fiber. Foods like low-fat dairy and eggs are also included.
3. What Foods Should You Avoid or Limit When Trying to Reduce High Cholesterol?
Fats and Oils
When trying to keep your cholesterol levels lower, it’s important to pay attention to the kind of fats and oils you’re eating. You want to steer clear of saturated and trans fats, as these can raise your cholesterol.
- Limit your intake of fatty beef, pork, poultry, and full-fat dairy products
- Avoid processed meats that may have been treated with chemicals
- Use non-hydrogenated alternatives (such as olive oil) when cooking
- Keeping away from commercially-baked goods and fast foods, as these often contain partially hydrogenated oils
Certain kinds of foods can raise your cholesterol levels, even if they only contain healthy fats. Be mindful of your consumption of these unhealthy foods — a little goes a long way.
- Whole-milk dairy items like cheese, cream, and yogurt
- Fried or processed foods (such as French fries and potato chips)
- Egg yolks
- Red meat and processed meat (think bacon, sausage, hot dogs, etc.)
Loaded up with added sugars and refined carbs, sugary treats can be quite detrimental to your health, especially when trying to reduce cholesterol.
- Limit your consumption of desserts, pastries, and other sugar-loaded items
- Try using low-sugar alternatives whenever possible
- Look for dried fruits, applesauce, and nut-based snacks for treats
- Use natural sweeteners like stevia or honey when needed
4. Are Dietary Supplements Effective for Lowering Cholesterol?
It is important to know whether dietary supplements are an effective way of lowering cholesterol or not. To determine this, there are a few things to consider.
- The type of supplement: Some supplements, such as omega-3s, plant stanols/sterols, and niacin, have been found to be effective in reducing cholesterol. However, it’s important to be aware that not all dietary supplements are equal; some may not have the desired effect, may be ineffective, or may even be harmful to your health.
- The dosage: It’s important to take the recommended dosage in order to get the benefit of the supplement. Taking too little of the supplement may not be effective, and taking too much could possibly be dangerous.
Dietary Supplements and Medication
It’s important to speak with your doctor before taking any supplements, as they may interact with any current medications that you are taking. Your doctor can also recommend the dose and type of nutrient needed for best results.
Dietary supplements should not be used as a replacement for a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet consisting of foods high in fiber, low in saturated fat, and rich in antioxidants, is the best way to lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In conclusion, dietary supplements can be beneficial for lowering cholesterol, provided they are taken as recommended. However, they should not be relied upon as a replacement for healthy lifestyle choices, and should always be taken in consultation with a medical professional.
5. What Other Lifestyle Changes Can Help Reduce High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol affects many people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. Making lifestyle changes can help manage and reduce cholesterol levels, without the need for medication. Here are other lifestyle changes you can make.
Increase Exercise: Physical activity increases the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) in the system and decreases the bad cholesterol (LDL). Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week can help reduce cholesterol levels.
Smoking Cessation: Smoking is linked with increased levels of bad cholesterol, so quitting smoking can help reduce cholesterol levels. Look for alternative methods of stress relief, such as yoga or mindfulness techniques.
Maintain a Healthy Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of managing cholesterol. Being overweight or obese is linked to high levels of bad cholesterol, so adopting a healthy and balanced diet and increasing physical activity is key for managing cholesterol. Avoid crash diets and unhealthy methods of weight loss.
6. What Are the Benefits of Lowering High Cholesterol?
Lowering high cholesterol levels is an important step for overall health and well-being. Here are some key benefits of maintaining a healthy cholesterol level:
- Stronger heart health: High cholesterol can clog your arteries, leading to an increased risk of stroke, heart attack or heart failure. Reducing cholesterol levels by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress levels can help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Lower risk of other diseases: High cholesterol is a warning sign for chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. Taking steps to lower cholesterol can significantly reduce the risk of developing these diseases.
- Improved cognitive abilities: Studies have found that maintaining a healthy cholesterol level can help in improving cognitive abilities, such as memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills. This is due to the fact that a high cholesterol level can reduce the flow of blood to the brain.
- Anti-aging benefits: A healthy cholesterol level helps in reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline and other age-related changes. It also helps to reduce wrinkles and give your skin a healthier and youthful appearance.
Overall, lower cholesterol levels can help to reduce the risk of serious health complications and improve your overall health and well-being. It’s important to talk to your doctor to learn more about the best ways to manage your cholesterol levels and ensure that you are staying healthy.
So, if you have high cholesterol, you now have a better understanding of how to manage it. With a balanced diet, regular exercise, and the right lifestyle changes, you can get your cholesterol back into a healthy range and keep it there. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor or nutritionist about your plan. Good luck!
Also read: Fatty Liver: Diet Guide to Get You Started