In Search of a Diet to Lower Cholesterol Levels?
You don’t need a specific diet with a catchy name to keep your cholesterol in check. Instead you just need to understand what affects your cholesterol levels and then add or subtract those specific foods.
The goal here is to lower your LDL cholesterol—that’s the bad cholesterol—while raising the good kind of cholesterol (HDL). There’s some evidence that your cholesterol levels are controlled by genetics, but cholesterol diets can also help lower LDL cholesterol in many people.
Research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that substituting carbohydrates (starches like bread and potatoes) with either protein (lean meat) or monounsaturated fat resulted in improved cholesterol levels.
One of the biggest factors on the cholesterol levels in your blood stream isn’t the amount of fat you eat, but the mix of fats in your diet. Saturated and trans fats are bad for you, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are better for you.
Here’s how to spot the 4:
- Monounsaturated fats (good)—Canola, peanut, and olive oils all have high concentrations of monounsaturated fats.
- Polyunsaturated fats (good)—Sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils all have high levels of this fat.
- Saturated fats (bad)—Meat, poultry with skin, and whole-milk dairy products all contain saturated fats. In packaged foods they’re easy to spot, since the amount is right on the nutrition label.
- Trans fats (bad)—These are now included on the nutrition label as well, and some cities like New York have banned their use in restaurants.
So how do you work that information into a cholesterol diet?
It’s not rocket science. Just take a three pronged approach: substitute good fats for bad ones, decrease bad fats when possible, and increase good fats.
For instance, red meat is high in bad fats, so substitute other protein sources like beans and soy protein like tofu. In general, liquid fats are better than solid fats; substituting oil in the place of butter when cooking can help you replace bad fats with good ones. Buying lower fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, and sour cream) will also cut your intake of fat without a major change in what you eat.
It’s also possible to eliminate some fats altogether. Avoiding fried foods is a good way to get trans fats out of your diet. By broiling meat instead of browning it with oil or butter in a pan, you can avoid introducing extra fat into your new cholesterol diet. Removing the skin on chicken is another way to reduce your intake of bad fats.
The last cholesterol diet trick is to eat foods that have good fat in them. Avocados, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds all contain good fat. A little sprinkle here or snack there can go a long way toward getting your fats in the correct balance.
Lowering your cholesterol doesn’t have to be difficult. By making conscious decisions about the foods you eat—choosing good fats over bad ones—you’ll have your cholesterol levels zooming back down like a rocket ship—no complex scientific formulas necessary.