Lowering cholesterol: diet tips

It has now been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that lowering blood cholesterol with diet or drugs decreases the likelihood of angina, heart attacks, and stroke. To a certain extent, this decrease in risk is related to the decrease in "bad" cholesterol (LDL-C). However, an even better indicator of reduced risk may be the ratio of total cholesterol to "good" HDL-cholesterol.

Tips for heart-healthy eating

  • Eat moderately to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Decrease fat intake to 30% of total calories. For example, an average person eating 2,000 calories per day should eat no more than 2 oz of fat each day.
  • Very-low-fat diets have also been found to be effective for people with extreme increases in blood triglycerides or cholesterol. For example, 10% of total calories per day as fat.
  • Saturated fats, which are mainly animal and dairy fats, should make up one third or less of your daily fat intake. Vegetarians have very low cholesterol levels.
  • Eat only small amounts of high-cholesterol foods such as organ meats and egg yolk.
  • Eat more high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Eat fish at least once a week.

Fish oils include the 2 omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. People who eat fish regularly have fewer heart attacks than those who eat fish rarely. Fish oils decrease blood triglycerides and, to a lesser extent, cholesterol. Fish oils also interfere with blood clotting. In some people with extremely high blood triglyceride levels (a butter-like fat), fish fatty acids can lower these levels dramatically.

A recent study (the Lyon Diet-Heart Study) demonstrated that high intake of omega-3 fatty acids, as in the popular "Mediterranean Diet" (along with omega-6 fatty acids, found primarily in certain plant foods such as corn oil), can be as effective as the most powerful drugs in preventing repeat heart attacks.

The average North American diet does not contain enough fiber. A healthy diet should include plenty of fiber in the form of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products. Increasing the type of fiber such as that found in oat bran, pectin, and psyllium may lower blood cholesterol by up to 10%.

Foods such as pectin, garlic, onions, green algae, some Japanese mushrooms, the commercial preparation Metamucil, and even charcoal may have some cholesterol-lowering properties. Unfortunately, information on their effectiveness is still very limited.

The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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