September is here again, and the National Cholesterol Education Month campaign is underway. This is the perfect month for starting something new such as setting new healthy eating goals to keep cholesterol in check and hearts beating strong.
If your cholesterol levels could use some tweaking, consider the following suggestions for getting back on track.
Make soluble fiber a priority. This fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel that helps to trap and remove cholesterol from the body. Aim for at least ten grams each day.
Soluble fiber is found in oats, barley, flax, legumes, carrots, citrus fruits, apples, pears, and dried beans and peas, just to name a few. Along with the fiber, include plenty of fluids to help the fiber do its work. Add soluble fiber slowly. This fiber can have a laxative effect if eaten in high amounts all at once.
Reduce saturated fat. The American Heart Association advises people to consume no more than seven percent of total calories as saturated fat. For a 2000 calorie intake, that would be 16 grams or less. A grilled cheese sandwich only could rack up 10 grams of saturated fat.
To reduce that saturated fat in your diet, choose only low or non-fat dairy products, soft tub margarines, and the lower fat cuts of meat such as loin and round cuts. Better yet, substitute chicken and fish for some of the meat you prepare. Have one or two meatless days each week. (And pass on the donuts at the office.)
Substitute healthy oils for other sources of fat. Extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, seeds and their oils, walnuts, almonds, and avocadoes are all healthy replacements for other fats. This only works well if the not-so-healthy fats are replaced by the oils and nuts instead of added to the diet. Otherwise, you will also add extra calories to the day and could gain weight, which is counterproductive to cholesterol control.
Get rid of added trans fats. Get this down to zero. Foods to avoid include those with partially hydrogenated fat in the ingredient label. Examples are fried foods, baked items, buttery crackers, processed savory snacks, and desserts, especially store-bought varieties.
Exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week. This will help increase the good cholesterol HDL, decrease weight (which helps normalize cholesterol, too), and improve health overall. Start slowly and work up to your goal. If you are out of shape, a visit to your doctor for the ok is necessary.
While visiting with the doctor, discuss using products that contain plant sterols and stanols. These plant compounds are similar in form to cholesterol and can block the absorption of it. Plant stanols and sterols are found in certain brands of margarines, milk, yogurt, juices, and salad dressings.
The above suggestions will work best along with a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains. With a little forethought and effort, we can all keep our hearts healthy. (Check the Ottawa Cardiovascular Centre for more information about eating for healthy cholesterol levels.)
The articles written by Andrea Wenger, Birmingham Diets Examiner, are for informational purposes only and are not to be used in the place of medical advice. Please contact a licensed physician or other medical professional before changing any health care routine or before starting any diet, fitness, or exercise program. Although every effort has been made to include the most current information, new information is released daily and may cause some recommendations to change.