That’s because what you eat has a great effect on your LDL cholesterol. This “bad” type of cholesterol is made by your body and performs several important functions, but when you eat too many of certain types of foods, it can raise your LDL too high.
These tips can help you learn how to reduce cholesterol through your diet:
What to avoid
Saturated fats are the main types of foods to avoid when you have high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends getting no more than 5%-6% of your calories from saturated fat.
If you eat 2,000 calories a day, for example, you should be getting no more than 13 grams of saturated fat. Currently, the average American gets about 11 percent of his or her daily calories from saturated fats. This type of fat is found in many different animal products, such as beef, poultry with the skin on, and dairy products made from whole or two percent milk.
Trans fats also cause higher levels of LDL. These fats are found in products such as stick margarine, crackers, fried foods, and packaged baked goods.
If you’re buying a packaged food, look on the Nutrition Facts label to check for the amount of trans fats. If you don’t see it listed, look for “shortening” or “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oil in the list of ingredients. These often indicate the presence of trans fats.
When you’re dining out, choose restaurants that have eliminated the use of trans fats. If this isn’t possible, avoid choosing fried foods and baked goods from the menu.
What to add
Reducing your cholesterol isn’t just about avoiding certain foods. It’s also about learning how to reduce cholesterol by adding certain foods, such as the following:
Certain types of fish can help your cholesterol levels, since they contain substances that are converted to heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and trout seem to lower triglycerides—a type of fat in the blood that’s measured by cholesterol levels—by up to 50 percent. They may also slightly raise your HDL—“good” cholesterol—and lower your risk of heart disease.
How the fish is prepared is important. Choose broiled rather than fried, and don’t overload it with mayonnaise or tartar sauce.
Many types of nuts seem to lower triglycerides in the same way that fatty fish do. These include almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. You’ll also be getting some extra fiber when you eat nuts. A good rule of thumb on a portion size is the amount you can hold in your palm.
Soluble fiber, which is found in whole grains, vegetables and fruit, has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. All whole grains are good, but oats have the highest level of soluble fiber. Oatmeal contains 1.4 grams of soluble fiber per 1/3-cup serving.
Vegetables like Brussels sprouts and turnips have a high fiber content (along with good vitamins and minerals). A half cup serving of Brussels sprouts contains 2 grams of fiber. Turnips, asparagus and sweet potatoes all have 1.7 grams or more of fiber.
When it comes to fruit, oranges, apricots, mangoes and grapefruit have good amounts of soluble fiber, as well as multiple vitamins and minerals. A small orange, for instance, has 1.8 grams. Try some of these fruits with your morning oatmeal for a healthy dose of fiber.
Sterols and stanols
Sterols and stanols are products used to fortify certain foods such as margarine spreads and orange juice, and they can be powerful weapons against high cholesterol. Using products with sterols or stanols twice a day can lower your LDL by up to 17 percent.
Talk with your doctor about how dietary changes can lower your cholesterol levels. He or she can make recommendations on how to reduce cholesterol based on your levels and overall health. You doctor can also monitor your cholesterol to determine what effect your dietary changes are having.