People hear a lot about cholesterol, but many don’t know exactly what cholesterol is. Cholesterol is a waxy substance naturally found in the body that actually has some useful properties. For example, it helps your body make necessary hormones and digest fatty foods. Unfortunately, cholesterol may build up inside of the arteries due to certain health conditions such as obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise, aging or a family history of high cholesterol. Over time, high cholesterol levels can lead to more serious health problems, such as heart disease or heart attack.
If you have high cholesterol, it’s important to make sure that you get the proper foods in your diet to help lower those cholesterol levels. In this guide, we’ll cover the foods you should eat and those you should avoid, as well as information about how to check your cholesterol levels.
People who have high cholesterol levels often need to make serious changes to their diet. To begin with, it’s important to start checking food labels and nutritional content information as often as possible. Look for low cholesterol, low saturated fat and low trans fat labels if you want to avoid food with high cholesterol content. This information is easy to find on the back of most food labels, so although grocery shopping may take a little longer at first, you’ll soon figure out which foods are healthy and which to avoid.
More specifically, there are some foods that are always good for the diet of a person with high cholesterol. Fish, whole grains, oat bran, oatmeal, blueberries, avocados, olives, olive oil, flaxseed oil and yogurt with live active cultures are all good options if you want to keep your cholesterol levels down. It’s also helpful to look for foods that have been fortified with plant sterols or stanols, as these too may help combat cholesterol build up.
Many nuts, including walnuts, pistachios and almonds, have also been touted as great cholesterol-reducing foods. Grape, cranberry and pomegranate juices are also good for lowering cholesterol – just make sure they are the 100 percent juice variety.
When looking for adequate protein sources, stick to fish, poultry (specifically white meat without the skin) and lean cuts of meat. Vegetarian alternatives include soy beans and soy products, nuts and whole grains.
Here’s a quick review of foods to eat to lower cholesterol:
As mentioned before, it’s important to steer clear of foods with high cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat levels if you want to lower your cholesterol. The most common examples of these foods include butter, fatty meats and ice cream. Be especially wary of fast food meals, as these are often very high in cholesterol. Cheese, whole milk, egg yolks, cookies, pastries, muffins, lobster, liver, chicken skin and most fried foods are all high in cholesterol as well.
Keep in mind that, in many cases, substitutions can help reduce the cholesterol content in a meal. For example, using one percent milk, evaporated milk and low-fat cheese instead of whole milk, butter and regular cheese for a macaroni and cheese dish can cut the cholesterol of your recipe in half.
Here’s a quick overview of foods to avoid if you have high cholesterol:
Regardless of whether you have high cholesterol, you should have your cholesterol checked once every five years. However, those who do have higher cholesterol may need to have their levels checked more often. The same is true for individuals who have certain risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity or a family history of heart disease.
If you haven’t had your cholesterol checked for some time, be sure to ask your doctor for a blood test called a lipid profile. This is a simple blood sample taken from the finger or arm to determine your cholesterol levels.