By now, you’ve learned that cholesterol only comes from two sources: your liver and the foods you eat. However, your body already makes all the cholesterol it needs, so eating foods high in saturated fat and trans fat can elevate your cholesterol levels. Having high cholesterol can lead to many health complications like coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. So it’s important to keep tabs on what you eat in order to manage your cholesterol successfully. Let’s talk about what goes into a heart-healthy diet and how it can help you manage your cholesterol!
What is a heart-healthy diet, anyway?
The best way to change your diet for better cholesterol numbers is to focus on eating foods low in saturated and trans fats. That means adding more fruits and vegetables to your daily food choices. Try a variety of whole-grain foods, such as bread, cereal, pasta, and brown rice, and stick to fat-free and low-fat dairy products. Eating poultry without skin and other lean meats (choose the “loin” or “round” cuts of meat, as they usually have less fat) can also help. Also be sure to try fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna, or sardines. Some other alternatives to try are unsalted nuts, seeds, and legumes, and nontropical vegetable oils like canola, corn, or olive oil. You can also try a Mediterranean diet, which is also rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils.
Avoid foods with a lot of sodium (salt), sugar-sweetened beverages, and sweets in general. Stay away from red meats or other untrimmed and fatty meats. Limit these foods:
- Full-fat dairy products like whole milk, ice cream, butter, and cheese,
- Baked goods like donuts, cakes, and cookies,
- Saturated oils like coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil,
- Solid fats like shortening, stick margarine, and lard,
- and fried foods in general.
It’s also a good idea to increase your intake of fibrous foods (like oatmeal and beans) and unsaturated fats like avocado, vegetable oils, and nuts. These types of foods have been known to manage high levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and it also helps increase the amount of HDL in the blood.
If you have any questions about making healthy eating choices to better manage high cholesterol, or just want to know more about a heart-healthy diet, reach out to your Health Advisor!