Where does cholesterol come from?
Cholesterol isn’t a bad thing. Each of our cells have a phospholipid bilayer membrane that separates one cell from another. Cholesterol particles interspersed throughout the membrane provide stability. Humans make their own cholesterol in the liver, so we don’t need to get cholesterol from food.
Cholesterol is just one factor in your overall risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Your doctor may not be concerned when one lab comes back with high cholesterol. It is when cholesterol stays high over a long period of time and you have other risk factors for CVD that you need to really pay attention.
The first line treatment option for high cholesterol is to change your diet and become more physically active. The great news is that it’s never too early to start!
Which foods raise cholesterol?
One big fat myth is that eating cholesterol will raise your blood cholesterol. We used to think that this was true! That’s one reason that eggs and shrimp were considered “bad” for heart health at one point in time. It turns out that dietary cholesterol minimally affects blood cholesterol. Yay!
Saturated fats seem to play the largest role in raising blood cholesterol. Saturated fats are fats from animal sources. If the fat source is solid at room temperature, it is probably a saturated fat. Saturated fat should be avoided in a heart-healthy diet:
- Cuts of meat with fat marbling
- Chicken with the skin on
- Bacon and sausage
- Coconut oil and Palm oil
- Dairy products made with whole fat milk (milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, ice cream)
Which foods lower cholesterol?
Eating more of these foods can help reduce your blood cholesterol!
- Fiber, especially soluble fiber (oats, Cheerios, oatmeal, beans, apples, pears, oranges, dates)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish such as salmon or tuna, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds)
- Plant Sterols and Stanols (peanuts, soybeans, pistachios, almond butter, olive oil, brown rice, beans, broccoli, cauliflower)
Apple Harvest Bowl
This cholesterol-busting breakfast has 10 g of dietary fiber per serving and is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- ½ cup dry rolled oats (or ¼ cup steel cut oats. Steel cut and rolled oats have more fiber compared to instant oats. You can even find quick steel cut oats in the store!)
- ½ tablespoon ground flax seeds
- 1 apple, diced
- 1 cup skim milk or 1 cup of unsweetened soy milk (Almond milk has less protein compared to soy milk and cow’s milk)
- Ground nutmeg and ground cinnamon to taste
- 1 ounce of toasted walnuts (about 7 walnuts)
Mix all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl (including the apple) and pop in the microwave. The microwave brings out the sugars from the apple- a natural sweetener. Try it just like this before adding brown sugar because you may not even need it.
Getting cholesterol under control.
These tips are meant to get you started, but your needs may be different. If you are able, bring the results from your cholesterol panel to your appointment at Total Nutrition Technology. Your provider will be able to interpret your lab values and explain the difference between your LDL, HDL, and Total Cholesterol levels. If you also have other conditions commonly found in people who have high cholesterol -such as high blood pressure, overweight, or diabetes- please share that information with your provider. Your provider will help you build a heart-healthy diet from the foods that you enjoy.
Getting cholesterol under control takes time, but the good news is that cholesterol is very responsive to dietary changes! That success can help keep you motivated to stick to a heart healthy lifestyle.