One of the main concerns that I’ve heard from people is their need to lower their cholesterol or wanting to make sure to keep their cholesterol levels in the healthy range. What are some easy things to substitute or change in your diet to help? Let’s first talk a little about what cholesterol does and then we can better understand how to take care of our levels of cholesterol.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a class of lipids, or fats, that is made by the body for different purposes. For instance, cholesterol can be incorporated as part of the structure of cell membranes, used to make bile for digestion, made into vitamin D, and used to make sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone. However, cholesterol can be deposited in the artery walls which leads to plaque build up and heart disease. How does it find itself there?
As you may know, water and oil don’t mix. For the fat to be transported during digestion it has to go through water based liquids, like blood. Those fats are combined with special proteins so that it can transport through the body. Lipoproteins are what those clusters are called and these include HDL and LDL. Cholesterol is a part of the cluster.
The difference in the HDL (high-density) lipoproteins and the LDL (low density) lipoproteins are the amount of fat (or cholesterol) they are transporting. The more cholesterol the less dense the lipoprotein will be. The more protein the more dense it will be. So the High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is the healthier one. The Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is the “lousy” one since it mainly consists of fat. This type is the cholesterol that can be deposited in the artery walls which then can lead to heart disease.
So how can we raise our healthy HDL and lower our lousy LDL?
Lowering LDL Cholesterol Levels
Lower The Amount of Fat in Your Diet
To lower the bad cholesterol means lowering the amount of fats in your diet. The total intake of fats should not be more than 20% of your total calorie intake. For a 2,000 calorie diet that would be 400 calories, which would be a total or 44 grams of fat. That is on the HIGH end.
When you are watching your fat intake, make sure the fats you are digesting are unsaturated fats and that less than 1/2 of your fat intake (10% total calorie intake, or 20 grams) is from saturated sources. The best way to tell the difference without a label, is that unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature (olive oil, avocados, most nuts, seeds, fish) and saturated fats are solid at room temperature (butter, animal fats). Avoid trans fats at all cost.
Increase Fiber, Fruits, & Vegetables
Fiber in the foods you eat has been proven to help decrease bad cholesterol. Eating more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, etc. will help.
Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to 5-9 servings a day, more being from vegetable sources. Fruits and vegetables (not canned) are our source of antioxidants which helps prevent heart disease and strengthens the body’s defense against cell damage. These antioxidants can neutralize free radicals which contribute to the build up of plaque in the arteries.
Lose Excess Weight
Just as much as a small increase of damaging factors can contribute to higher cholesterol levels, small decreases can have a good effect as well. Just a 5-10 pound decrease in weight is enough to start seeing a decrease in LDL cholesterol in most people.
Lower the amount of fat in your diet and try to fill your day with low-fat whole foods rich in antioxidants and fiber. If overweight, loosing just 5 pounds can be enough to see a decrease.
Need help in lowing fat in your diet? Take my Free Nutrition Assessment to get my feedback and start getting your diet back on track!