5 dietary tips to help fight high cholesterol

Keeping your cholesterol levels in check is easier than you may think. Simple changes in your diet can help lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol and increase the good kind (HDL). Follow these five easy dietary tips for excellent heart health.

5 dietary tips to help fight high cholesterol

1. Eat less saturated fat

  • Saturated fat is the stuff in burgers, steaks, butter, cheese and ice cream. To reduce your chances of a heart attack, switch to skinless chicken breasts, fish, olive or canola oil and low-fat frozen yogurt.
  • Keeping your daily intake of saturated fat to less than seven per cent of your daily calories - that's about 15 millilitres (one tablespoon) of butter or one slice of cheddar cheese plus 125 millilitres (1/2 cup) of ice cream if you eat 1,800 calories a day — can lower your LDL by nine to 11 per cent.

2. Get the word "hydrogenated" off of your menu

  • Read the back of a bag of chips or a box of cookies, crackers or baked goods, and you're likely to see the words "partially hydrogenated" oil on the list.
  • These oils, also known as trans fats, extend the shelf life of a product, but they can shorten your shelf life by raising LDL and triglycerides, reducing HDL and increasing your odds of having a heart attack.
  • In one study of 50 men with healthy cholesterol levels, eating trans fats for five weeks raised their LDL by five per cent and lowered HDL to a heart-damaging 11 per cent.
  • Food served in restaurants and at fast-food chains — especially fried food — can also be high in trans fats. Many eateries have promised to change the oil in their deep fryers, but not all have followed through.

3. Eat oatmeal, barley or beans every day

  • These three foods are packed with a type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan.
  • Beta-glucan acts like a sponge. It traps cholesterol-rich bile acids in your intestines so that they can be eliminated before they can raise your cholesterol.
  • Whole grains such as whole wheat bread and brown rice, which are rich in insoluble fibre, just won't do the trick.
  • In one study of 36 overweight individuals, those who ate two large daily servings of foods rich in soluble fibre lowered their LDL by 17 per cent.

4. Stock up on avocados

  • If you haven't yet discovered the rich, creamy flavour of avocados, it's time. Slice one up and enjoy a few pieces as a snack, add them to salads or use them in sandwiches or on chilli instead of cheese.
  • In a study from Mexico's Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, women and men who ate one avocado a day for a week saw their total cholesterol drop by 17 per cent.
  • "Bad" LDL cholesterol fell, and "good" HDL rose. The reason? Avocados are incredibly rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
  • They also contain respectable levels of beta-sitosterol - the same stuff found in some cholesterol-lowering margarines.

5. Snack on nuts

  • It seems backward, since nuts are fatty, but they really are good for your cholesterol. This is thanks in part to the cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats they contain.
  • Choosing almonds instead of a doughnut, chips or pretzels for your daily afternoon snack  could cut "bad" cholesterol by nearly 10 per cent.
  • A bonus: vitamin E in the almond's "meat," plus flavonoids in its papery skin protect LDL from oxidation- the first step in the development of artery-clogging plaque.

Dietary adjustments, along with an active lifestyle and reducing stress, help most effectively fight cholesterol. Incorporate the above tips into your daily life and notice the wonderful difference. Your heart will thank you.

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