Does your family have a long history of heart disease? If so, you may want to pay special attention to make sure that you are following a low cholesterol diet. Although genetics, age, and even environmental factors have an influence on your cardiovascular health, it’s possible to minimize the risk of this chronic disease by making a few changes in the foods you eat.
1. Eat salmon and other seafood in place of red meat
When it comes to foods that raise your cholesterol and increase your chances of heart disease, red meat is at the top of the list. If you are serious about cutting your cholesterol, choose seafood as an alternative to red meat when possible.
It’s not necessary to completely eliminate red meat, but salmon and seafood provide a plethora of health benefits. Salmon, tuna, and other cold-water fish are all high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to improved heart and brain health. If you aren’t a big seafood eater, pork and chicken are both alternatives that have lower amounts of cholesterol than your typical cut of beef.
2. Eat spinach and other fibrous vegetables in place of dinner rolls or french fries
Next time you go out to eat, opt for the side salad instead of the french fries. If you are making a salad at home, add almonds, walnuts, or flax seeds. All have been shown to help lower cholesterol.
Eating a “low cholesterol diet” could be synonymous with eating a plant-based diet. Most of the foods that have an adverse effect on cholesterol are animal-based products. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables are low in cholesterol and high in soluble fiber, which has been shown to have a statistically-significant effect on lowering cholesterol.
Spinach, in particular, is a super food that not only helps control cholesterol but provides essential vitamins and nutrients as well. Spinach is a great source of Vitamin A, folic acid, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K. If you trust Popeye the Sailor, spinach also makes you stronger. Who doesn’t want that?
3. Use olive oil and butter spreads in place of butter, when possible
Butter, a dairy product, is a significant source of cholesterol and fat. A common substitution is margarine, a plant-based product, that contains no cholesterol at all. Unfortunately, many margarines contain trans fat, which, like saturated fat, brings up blood cholesterol levels. The best thing you can do if you don’t want to eliminate butter all together is opt for a tub of butter or margarine spread that has no trans fat and as little saturated fat as possible.
If you really want a food that will help lower cholesterol, olive oil is the way to go. Although it’s not always possible to use olive oil as a substitute for butter with bread or baking, it can easily be used when cooking pasta, vegetables, or even making a dressing. Olive oil is a very “heart-healthy” choice as it lowers your bad cholesterol levels. Keep in mind, that olive oil is a very calorie-dense food, so it’s best keep consumption to a couple spoonfuls a day.
4. Eat oatmeal in place of breakfast cereal
It’s not uncommon for companies to promote their breakfast cereals with “cholesterol-lower benefits.” Unfortunately, the majority of cereals are highly-processed foods with minimal nutritional value (though some are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals). A better route to take would be oatmeal. You can add fruits (such as raspberries and blackberries) and/or nuts (like walnuts and almonds) to improve the flavor of your oatmeal, add some variety, and further increase the effects of your cholesterol-reducing breakfast or snack.
5. Eat egg whites or egg beaters in place of eggs
Research suggests that the yolk in eggs can begin to cause plaque build-up in the arteries if you eat 3 or more a day. If you eat eggs on a regular basis, then it is essential that you cut down on the amount of yolk you eat. The yolk in one egg has a 186 mg of cholesterol, over half of the daily recommendation. Using egg whites or an egg substitute of some sort, can provide a delicious alternative, particularly if you use seasoning and add vegetables.
We shouldn’t have to tell you that cholesterol levels need to be taken seriously. This is especially true for those individuals who are at increased risk for heart disease. Though the potential dangers of high cholesterol (heart attack and death) can be frightening, making the necessary lifestyle changes to improve your health shouldn’t be. Be sure to visit with your physician regularly, make an effort to eat properly, and stay physically active to the best of your ability.
Do you have favorite foods and meals that help to lower your cholesterol? Be sure to share your ideas and experiences with others!