Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is needed in your body to make cell membranes, hormones, and vitamin D. Without cholesterol your body would not function properly. However, too much of a certain type of cholesterol can cause problems. Too much cholesterol in your blood can stick to the walls of your arteries which can cause narrowing or blocking. Narrowing of arteries can cause problems like a heart attack or stroke.
Preventing high cholesterol can be done by making healthy eating choices. Adhering to a low-cholesterol diet is powerful for overall health. You can choose certain foods that will naturally decrease cholesterol levels.
According to the CDC, 28 million adults in the United States have high cholesterol. High cholesterol has no symptoms, so many people do not know they have high cholesterol until it is too high. You should have your cholesterol levels checked every year and should stick to a low-cholesterol diet until your levels are checked.
It is important to note that while most cases of high cholesterol can be treated with lifestyle adjustments, some people have a genetic defect in cholesterol metabolism that causes them to have very high cholesterol. While diet and lifestyle are important for them too, they are not going to be able to achieve normal cholesterol levels without medication.
Read on to learn about how to lower cholesterol with a low-cholesterol diet, how to find foods lower in cholesterol, and discover tips on how to adjust your diet.
What is a Low Cholesterol Diet?
A low-cholesterol diet is a diet that lowers the “bad” cholesterol called LDL cholesterol. There are two types of cholesterol in your body: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein ). Too much LDL can cause blocked arteries. HDL is often referred to as the “good” cholesterol because it removes cholesterol from the bloodstream back into the liver to be processed.
According to the American College of Cardiology, the recommended LDL level is 70 mg/dL in people with a high risk of cardiovascular disease. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease and stroke.
The DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) eating plan emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The DASH diet is a low-cholesterol diet that includes foods that help lower LDL levels that otherwise build up in your arteries.
What Are the Foods to Avoid for Cholesterol?
Foods high in saturated fats, fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, tropical oils, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages and treats should be avoided. Butter, cheese, and full-fat dairy products contain saturated fats. Saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol levels. Instead of these “bad” fats, consider healthier fats such as lean meats, nuts, and olive oil.
The closer the food is to its natural state, the more healthy it will be. For example, olive oil is closer to its natural state than partially hydrogenated oils. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is used for many processed foods and is made in a lab by changing the chemical makeup of soybean, cottonseed, or other oil into a solid shortening. Partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fats which increase LDL cholesterol. Olive oil is simply oil collected from pressed olives. In this example, olive oil is the better choice.
Can you choose the healthier choice? What other foods are closer to nature that would be better choices for cholesterol health?
Whole grain toast
What Foods are Low in Cholesterol?
Foods from animals have the most cholesterol. This means that foods such as meats, eggs, and dairy products have the most innate cholesterol. Red meats have more cholesterol than white meats.
Meats with the most cholesterol include beef steak, beef roast, ribs, pork chops, and ground beef. Lean meats with less cholesterol include fish, chicken, turkey, and plant-based meat. Meat from the ocean generally has lower cholesterol levels such as tuna, salmon, and swordfish.
Foods low in cholesterol are ones that grow such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
How Long Does it Take to Lower Cholesterol with Diet?
It is possible to lower cholesterol with a diet within a few weeks. Once diet modification has begun, it can take as little as 3 weeks and up to 3 months to lower cholesterol naturally. Sometimes, prescription medications are prescribed after lifestyle changes have been applied. If your diet is controlled, then cholesterol can be reduced naturally. Stick with a low-cholesterol diet to increase your heart health.
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Dietary Adjustments to Improve Cholesterol
Small, simple choices in food can vastly improve cholesterol health. Drastic changes do not foster consistency which is why small dietary adjustments can improve cholesterol health.
A good rule of thumb is to incorporate more plant based whole foods into your diet. Choosing a lean meat choice can also help. A simple choice of lean meat can instantly reduce your daily intake of saturated fats. If you choose lean meat or protein-rich plant based foods each meal, then the cumulative reduction in cholesterol will result in health benefits.
Adding foods like oatmeal, oat bran, high-fiber foods, fish, and omega-3 fatty acids are ways to improve cholesterol with dietary adjustments. Eating foods high in fiber like oatmeal, beans (black, pinto, kidney, and lima) can prevent LDL cholesterol. Good fats like almonds, nuts, avocados, and olive oil can be selected to improve cholesterol.
Our doctors can help you address dietary adjustments to improve cholesterol. Make an appointment today to get your cholesterol levels checked. High cholesterol is easily treated with diet and prescription medication when needed.
Learn more about a low cholesterol diet by making an appointment to speak with your PlushCare doctor.
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American College of Cardiology. (2019). 2018 Guideline on the management of blood cholesterol. Accessed on October 10, 2022, from https://www.acc.org/~/media/Non-Clinical/Files-PDFs-Excel-MS-Word-etc/Guidelines/2018/Guidelines-Made-Simple-Tool-2018-Cholesterol.pdf
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). LDL and HDL cholesterol: “Bad” and “good” cholesterol. Accessed on October 10, 2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htm