What is Cholesterol? Cholesterol is a fat found in the blood. There are two main types of blood cholesterol: high density or HDL cholesterol and low density or LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is referred to as “bad” cholesterol that can form plaque or fatty deposits on your artery walls and block blood flow to the heart and brain, if your LDL level is high. HDL cholesterol is referred to as “good” cholesterol because it helps to remove excess cholesterol from the body.
Cholesterol is naturally made by your body but is increased through your diet. Dietary cholesterol — found in meat, poultry, eggs and regular dairy products — has less impact on blood cholesterol than foods with saturated and trans fat. Foods containing saturated fat include processed foods, fatty meats, full-fat milk products, butter and lard. Foods containing trans fat include partially hydrogenated margarines, deep-fried foods and many packaged crackers, cookies and commercially baked products.
High blood cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. As your blood cholesterol rises, so does your risk of coronary heart disease.
Don't worry, there is hope! Here are some great tips to help you balance and maintain good blood Cholesterol health!
1. Eat a healthy balanced diet. Choose a variety of whole and minimally processed foods at every meal. This means foods that are either not packaged or have few ingredients.
• Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit at every meal. This will help to increase your fibre intake, which can help to lower cholesterol.
• Sometimes getting enough fibre in your daily diet can be difficult so choose vegetables and fruit for snacks. Select fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and fruit. You want them to be plain, without sauce, sugar or salt added. Note: Psyllium fibre offers multi-health benefits as it passes through the digestive system removing cholesterol, toxins and wastes from the body, helping to lower cholesterol and promote heart health.
• Choose whole grains. Look for whole grain breads, barley, oats (including oatmeal), quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, farro, etc.
• Choose more vegetarian options such as beans, lentils, tofu and nuts. Include vegetarian options as often as possible in your weekly meal plan.
• Make sure your meat is lean, poultry without the skin and include fish a couple of times per week. Limit your portion sizes. Note: If your blood cholesterol level is high, your physician or dietitian may recommend restricting your intake of foods high in dietary cholesterol such as egg yolks, organ meats, full-fat dairy products and processed meats.
• Choose lower fat dairy products or alternatives with no added sugar. Select 1% or skim milk, plain yogurt and lower fat cheeses.
• Plan healthy snacks that combine at least two different types of food. For example try: hummus and baby carrots; apple wedges and lower fat cheese or plain yogurt with berries.
• Drink water or lower fat plain milk to satisfy thirst. Avoid sugary drinks including soft drinks, sports drinks, sweetened milk or alternatives, fruit drinks, 100% fruit juice and ready-to-drink sweetened coffees and teas.
2. Cook and eat more meals at home. Cooking at home allows you to select whole and minimally processed foods.
• Develop and share skills in food preparation and cooking with your family. • Buy a healthy cookbook or use the healthy recipes at heartandstroke.ca. Select the top 10 recipes your family loves and get everyone involved in the meal preparation.
• Reduce the amount of sugar, salt and solid fats used in your favourite recipes.
3. Make eating out a special occasion. When you dine in restaurants, you often eat more than you would at home, including more fat, salt and sugar.
• Try to limit the number of times you eat in a restaurant per month.
• When you do eat out, choose restaurants that serve freshly made dishes using whole and minimally processed foods and that provide nutrition information.
• Share meals or ask for half the meal to be packed up to eat the next day.
4. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your LDL or bad cholesterol level, lowers your HDL or good cholesterol level and raises your triglyceride levels. Reducing your weight is a positive way to reduce your blood cholesterol levels. Help is available at heartandstroke.ca/hwplan.
With these tips, you and I can have a happy, healthy heart! If you ever have any concerns, always speak to your family doctor.
Sponsored post on behalf of Metamucil. Opinions and comments are those of the author.