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Managing and Lowering Your Cholesterol With Healthy Eating

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Managing and Lowering Your Cholesterol With Healthy Eating

Lowering your cholesterol is a large part of improving heart health. You can do this by following an eating plan that supports a stronger heart. Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services walks us through our "Friends" and "Enemies" when it comes to heart healthy meal planning.

The top dietary recommendation for lowering cholesterol is eliminating or at least drastically limiting the foods you eat that contain saturated fats, trans fat and dietary cholesterol.

Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods, including meats, butter and whole milk dairy products (yogurt, cheese and ice cream). They are also found in some high-fat plant foods including palm and coconut oil. Numerous studies have shown that replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fat (olive and canola oil, nuts and avocados) can reduce LDL, or bad, cholesterol by significant amounts. The American Heart Association recommends lowering saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of total calories and less than seven percent if cholesterol levels are elevated. Be sure to check the label for saturated fats next time you're grocery shopping.

Trans Fats
Trans fats are even more unhealthy than saturated fats. Trans fats are developed in a laboratory to improve the shelf life of processed foods and are found in many packaged baked goods, potato chips, snack foods, fried foods, fast foods and most stick margarines. Always look for trans fats on food labels as ?hydrogenated oils.? There is no healthy amount of trans fats so try to keep them as far from your plate as possible.

Cholesterol-Rich Foods
Controversy surrounds the intake of cholesterol-rich foods. More emphasis is put on reducing saturated fats and trans fats. If you want to take a firm hand to reduce your risk factors, cut down on all high-cholesterol foods including egg yolks, shellfish, liver and other organ meats.

Good foods to choose that may help reduce cholesterol are soluble fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.

Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber may help reduce cholesterol by forming a gooey mass in your stomach that traps cholesterol and carries it out of your body before it can be absorbed into your bloodstream. A great source of soluble fiber is fruit. Soluble-rich fruits include raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, pears and oranges. Put your juice aside and choose the whole fruit to benefit from the fiber content.

Oatmeal is a soluble-rich grain that can be eaten in its obvious form, but can also be pulverized in a food processor to make oat flour. Oat flour can be substituted for up to half the all-purpose flour in most pancake recipes. The American Heart Association recommends three grams of soluble fiber from oats or seven grams soluble fiber from psyllium daily to lower LDL cholesterol. Psyllium husk is available in powder form in the products Konsyl and Metamucil. The effective dose of each are 2 « teaspoons of Konsyl powder and one Tablespoon of sugar-free Metamucil powder.

Last, but not least, beans and lentils are rich in soluble fiber and make a great low-fat replacement for animal protein which is often full of saturated fat. Beans can be added to soups and salads for extra flavor and texture.

Omega-3 fatty acids are great for cardiovascular health. Heart-healthy fish oils are especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids which seem to reduce inflammation and high blood pressure, decrease triglycerides and raise HDL, or good, cholesterol. Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services recommends at least three servings (8-12 ounces) of one of the omega-3-rich fish every week, which include wild salmon, sardines, halibut and tuna steak. If you cannot manage to get that amount of fish in your diet weekly, consider a fish oil supplementation of 1,000 mg EPA + DHA.

Monounsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated fats help lower total cholesterol level and may help raise HDL levels. Consider not just adding monounsaturated fats to your diet, but replacing some of the unhealthy fats that are already in your diet, like the saturated and trans fat sources. Monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oil, nuts and nut butters, avocado, olives and seeds.

There's no better time than now to make lifestyle changes benefitting your heart. The more you practice, the easier it gets, and the benefits are a great incentive for your heart.

For more information about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, click here or call 972.560.2655.