NUTRITION HOTLINE: High Cholesterol
Q: My doctor recently told me I have high cholesterol. What types of foods should I avoid? Is there anything I can eat to lower my cholesterol?
A: Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is not the main component in foods that can raise blood cholesterol levels. Eating too much saturated fat, trans fats or partially hydrogenated fats can raise blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are found in high fat meats including ribs, full fat hamburger, pork, lamb, processed meats, and bacon, and in full fat dairy products including whole milk, butter, and cheese. Palm, palm kernel, and coconut oils are also high in saturated fat. Trans fats and partially hydrogenated fats are mainly found in processed foods.
There are many foods you can eat to help lower cholesterol. Foods high in soluble fiber including oatmeal and oat bran, beans, soy, flax, apples, potatoes, oranges, legumes, and dried plums will bind cholesterol in the gut and increase excretion from the body. Try to consume 25–30 grams of fiber per day. Eating foods high in monounsaturated fat including olive and canola oil, nuts, flax oil and avocado will also help lower cholesterol. Fish high in omega 3 fatty acids (salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines, anchovies) may lower bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol and are believed to be cardioprotective.
Foods containing plant sterols or stanols (plant fibers) also lower cholesterol and can be found in Minute Maid orange juice, Rice Dream rice milk, margarine, granola bars, CocoaVia chocolate products and Lifetime brand cheese. These foods are usually labeled as “heart healthy” or “heartwise” and will state that they help lower cholesterol. When consumed as part of a healthy diet, having two servings per day can lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) by 10–20 percent. These products may decrease the absorption of beta carotene in foods, so you need to have at least one serving of a fruit or vegetable high in beta carotene per day (i.e., spinach, broccoli, sweet potato, tomato, carrots, apricots). You should also check with your physician before using these products.
By Diane Keddy, MS, RD
Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Spring 2007 Volume 5, Number 2
©2007 Gürze Books
About the Author
Diane Keddy, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian with a private practice in Newport Beach, CA.