Cholesterol: Important, but It Must Be Properly Managed
Cholesterol, which has many functions in our bodies, is an essential compound. When present in excess, however, it can build up in arteries and cause them to harden, which in turn can lead to a heart attack. Cholesterol passes through the bloodstream as part of lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoproteins: “good” and “bad”, which are known as low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL), respectively. A key to good heart health is to minimize intake of LDLs while maintaining a high level of HDLs. When people talk about lowering cholesterol, they typically mean lowering the level of LDLs in their bloodstream. The next sections describe representative foods and an exemplary meal planner for lowering cholesterol.
Developing a Meal Planner
A key first step to developing a meal planner is to identify foods that serve to lower cholesterol and to make a conscious effort to make them a staple of your diet. Five foods that are particularly effective at helping to reduce bloodstream cholesterol levels are oatmeal and other high fiber foods (such as beans and vegetables), fish, nuts, olive oil, and stanol- and sterol-rich foods, such as some margarine brands and some orange juices and yogurt drinks that have been fortified with stanols and sterols, for example. However, these foods should not be eaten indiscriminately. Some of them, such as nuts and olive oil, for example, are high in calories and therefore can contribute to weight gain. It is therefore important to eat these foods routinely, but in moderation.
Another key step, of course_,_ is to limit, if not eliminate, your intake of foods that are high in LDLs. Examples of popular foods that are high in LDLs include red meat, eggs (yolk), baked products, full-fat dairy items and fried foods, such as fried chicken, onion rings and french fries, for example.
Exemplary Daily Meal Planner
- Scrambled egg whites and/or oat-baked cereal (such as Cheerios)
- Toast made from high fiber oat bread
- Fresh fruit (strawberries, watermelon, blueberries, for example)
- Orange or vegetable juice
- Homemade macaroni and low-fat cheese
- Fresh garden salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots, for example) with low fat dressing
- Fruit juice or water
- Broiled skinless chicken (in olive oil)
- White rice
- High fiber dinner roll (optionally with margarine low in trans fats)
- Ice tea
Snacks (Eaten throughout the day)
- Celery and carrot sticks
- Yogurt drinks
- Fruit smoothies
- Fat free pudding
- Rice cakes
- Air-popped popcorn
As you can see, lowering cholesterol does not mean having to eat a limited variety of foods. Indeed, there are a large number of tasty food options for those seeking to bring their cholesterol level in check. Good luck to you in achieving and maintaining your target cholesterol level.
This article is only meant to provide some basic background information regarding how to develop a meal planner for lowering cholesterol levels. It is not meant to replace the good advice of your doctor or dietitian.
Cholesterol: Top 5 foods to lower your numbers, Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/CL00002
Cooking for Lower Cholesterol, American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Cooking-for-Lower-Cholesterol_UCM_305630_Article.jsp
How to lower your cholesterol with better eating, CNN Health: https://articles.cnn.com/2008-09-24/health/heartmag.cholesterol_1_how-to-lower-cholesterol-low-cholesterol-diet?_s=PM:HEALTH
Your Guide To Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC, National Institutes of Health: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/chol_tlc.pdf