Now you know what your cholesterol means, but how can you improve it? Cholesterol is mostly affected by your diet and exercise habits. Eating heart healthy foods, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active will all help to improve those cholesterol numbers. However, genetics do play a role in some cases. Some people are recommended to take medicine to lower their cholesterol. Your healthcare provider knows best on your recommendations to improve your health!
There are different kinds of fats in the foods we eat:
Saturated fat: This fat raises blood cholesterol, too much is not good. Aim for a diet that has 5-6% or less of calories from saturated fats. Animal fats like lard and meat fat and some tropical oils like coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil contain saturated fats.
Trans-fat: Come from adding hydrogen to vegetable oils and tends to raise blood cholesterol. It’s used in commercial baked goods and for cooking in many restaraunts and fast food chains. It’s also naturally found in milk and beef. Reduce the amount of trans fat in your diet by limiting with “hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients list.
Polyunsaturated fats: Found in vegetable oils and fish oils. These can improve blood cholesterol when eaten as part of a healthy diet and used to replace saturated or trans fats.
Monounsaturated fats: Found in olive, canola, peanut, sunflower and safflower oils.These fats will improve blood cholesterol.
First and foremost when evaluating things to incorporate in your diet and things to leave out, pay attention to the nutrition label on all of your food. Below are some things to look out for:
What should I eat?
- Focus on eating foods low in saturated and transfats such as:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables
- A variety of whole grain foods; bread, cereal, pasta and brown rice. (At least half of the servings should be whole grains.)
- Fat-free, 1 percent and low-fat milk products.
- Poultry without skin and lean meats. When you choose to eat red meat and pork, select options labeled “loin” and “round.” These cuts usually have the least amount of fat.
- Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, albacore tuna and sardines. (Enjoy at least two servings baked or grilled each week.)
- Unsalted nuts, seeds, and legums (dried beans or peas).
- Non-tropical vegetable oils like canola, corn, olive, or safflower oils.
What should I limit in my diet?
- Food with a lot of sodium
- Sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages
- Red meats that aren’t trimmed
- meats that have been processed with a lot of sodium
- Full-fat dairy products such as whole milk, cream, ice cream, butter and cheese
- Baked goods made with saturated and transfats like donuts, cake and cookies
- Foods that list the words “hydrogenated oils” in the ingredient panel
- Solid fats like shortening, stick margarine and lard
- Add a variety of fruits and vegetables to your meals
- Use a rack to drain off fat when you broil, roast or bake poultry and meats
- Look for leaner cuts if you choose to eat meat
- Don’t baste with drippings; use wine, fruit juice or marinade
- Broil or grill instead of pan-frying
- Cut off all visible fat from meat before cooking, and take all the skin off poultry pieces
- Use a vegetable oil spray to brown or saute foods
- Use low-fat, low-sodium options instead of regular cheese