Diet to Lower Cholesterol
If you are following a diet to lower cholesterol, be sure to decrease the amount of animal products you consume. A lot of animal products are both high in cholesterol and saturated fats. Saturated fats actually raise blood cholesterol more than cholesterol itself. Foods high in cholesterol or saturated fat include:
- Red meat with visible fat
- Organ meat
- Processed meat (such as bologna and salami)
- Other high-fat meats (such as bacon and sausage)
- Egg yolks
- Ice cream
Consider the following suggestions for cutting back on animal products while maintaining proteins as part of a diet to lower cholesterol:
- To keep your blood cholesterol level low, choose only the leanest meats, poultry, fish, and shellfish
- Instead of butter, use liquid or soft margarine or vegetable oils that are low in saturated fat and contain little or no trans fat
- Try substituting skim (fat-free) or low-fat (1 percent) milk and cheese and low-fat or nonfat yogurt
- Use egg whites (which have no cholesterol) instead of egg yolks
- Use high-protein plant-based foods, such as soy, tofu, and edamame.
As mentioned earlier, saturated fats are the main cause of increased cholesterol in a diet. Another type of fat, called trans fatty acid (trans fat), has also been shown to increase the level of LDL ("bad" cholesterol), although not as much as saturated fats. Trans fat also decreases HDL (the "good" cholesterol).
Trans fat is found in foods such as:
- Salad dressing
- Vegetable shortening
- Baked goods
- Fried foods
- Many processed foods.
You can tell if a food contains trans fat by looking at the ingredient list on the food label. If the ingredient list includes the words "shortening," "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil," or "hydrogenated vegetable oil," the food contains trans fat. Because ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance, smaller amounts are present when the ingredient is close to the end of the list. You can also tell if a food contains trans fat by looking under "fat" on the food label. Trans fat is often listed just after saturated fat.
Suggestions for decreasing saturated fats and trans fat as part of a diet to lower cholesterol include the following:
- Learn to read food labels. Food labels provide valuable information. An informed consumer is able to make better, heart- healthy food choices.
- Substitute other types of fats. In order to maintain a low-cholesterol diet, choose "good" fats high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, peanut oil, and avocados.
- Buy margarine made with unsaturated liquid vegetable oils (which should the first ingredient listed). Choose soft tub or liquid margarine, or try vegetable oil spreads.
- Limit butter, lard, fatback, and solid shortenings. They are high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Buy light or nonfat mayonnaise and salad dressing instead of the regular varieties that are high in fat. For example, two tablespoons of regular Italian dressing can add as many as 14 grams of fat.