Maybe you just heard from your doctor that your cholesterol is high and now you have to either take medications or try and bring it down before your next appointment. So, why is this important? Elevated cholesterol levels are just one of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Having too much cholesterol in the blood will lead to a build-up in the walls of your arteries. This then leads to "hardening of the arteries" and subsequent slowing of the blood flow to the heart. If this blood flow becomes cut off by a blockage, you could find yourself with a heart attack.
Below, I have 5 tips to get you started on the journey to lowering your cholesterol with your diet!
Tip #1: Increase Your Fiber Intake
Not only does fiber fill you up, but it also binds to cholesterol and excretes it from the body. Aim for at least 25g per day if you are a female and 38g if you are a male. You can find fiber in foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. One thing to remember with fiber is to not go from eating only 5g per day to 25g day in one shot. Slowly increase your intake and drink lots of fluids to avoid any GI discomfort!
Tip #2: Opt for Healthy Fats
Everyone has been demonizing the fats and it is really the type of fat you want to be mindful of. Include more healthy fats like nuts, seeds and avocado, which contain the unsaturated fats that decrease inflammation in the body and also increase your HDL (good cholesterol).
Tip #3: Watch Trans and Saturated Fats
Trans fats are pretty well known for the negative effects on your health; however, the jury is still mixed on saturated fats. While new research shows that saturated fats don't necessarily increase your cholesterol, they also don't offer any benefits like the unsaturated fats do. You can find trans and saturated fats in baked goods, chips, fried foods and more.
Tip #4: Decrease Your Refined Sugar Intake
More and more research studies are showing a link between refined sugars and an increased risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association also found that sugar increases triglycerides in the body. The AHA recommends no more than 24g of added sugars per day for women and no more than 36g for men. This means watching out for the cakes, cookies, ice creams, and sugary beverages.
Tip #5: Make Time for Exercise
Exercise helps to increase your good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease the bad (LDL). It also helps with weight control and decreasing blood pressure. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day (if not more) and mix it up between the cardiovascular (biking, walking, running, swimming, etc) and resistance (push-ups, chest press, leg press, etc) exercises for the greatest benefit!
**As always, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Hopefully, you can find something in this list to start working on to help manage your cholesterol levels. Remember, the best way to start is by evaluating your current diet or exercise program and setting goals for improvement!