Understanding Your Cholesterol and How to Lower It

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Over 1/3 of Americans have high cholesterol, specifically elevated LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Having no symptoms, many people don’t even realize they have high cholesterol. This puts them at twice the risk of developing heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S.

A blood test can determine your cholesterol levels and there are a few things that you can do in order to lower your cholesterol:

  • Reduce your intake of animal-based saturated fats. Choose lean meats and lower fat dairy. Fish, skinless poultry, pork loin and beef sirloin are all examples of leaner options that can work healthfully into your diet.
  • Increase the plants in your diet for heart-healthy fiber that helps rid the cholesterol from your body! Non-starchy vegetables are your best friends due to their low calorie, low carb content, but fruits and whole grains are also beneficial as well as nuts, seeds and beans/legumes.
  • Read ingredients and avoid “hydrogenated oils” for hidden trans fats in foods.
    • Keeping food choices as simple and wholesome is best, but that doesn’t mean better-for-you brands of popcorn and nut butters aren’t part of a healthy meal plan. Certain brands of these contain trans fats that raise your LDL and lower your HDL cholesterol.
    • Also, on the “avoid list” is fried foods.
  • Get your sweat on: daily exercise is one of the best ways to boost your HDL or “good” cholesterol levels that protect your heart!
  • Supplements:
    • Introducing psyllium husk into your diet provides soluble fiber to help lower cholesterol.
    • Green tea has potent antioxidants to help reduce heart disease risk and lower cholesterol. Sweeten it with lemon or a plant-based sweetener like stevia.
    • Soy has also been shown to help lower cholesterol. The recommendation is 25 grams per day which can be consumed by a scoop of low sugar soy protein powder mixed into your smoothie or oatmeal or by incorporating tofu, edamame and/or plain or light soy milk into your meal plan.

Other tips - Don’t be scared of “high cholesterol” foods. The dietary cholesterol in your food doesn’t matter; it’s the saturated fats, fiber, and trans fats that effect your blood cholesterol levels.

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